2023 venice architecture biennale
REALMstudios’ strategic landscape project Reimagining Your Creek was selected to be part of the Australian exhibition at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale.
The exhibition aims to explore decolonisation and decarbonisation, along with regeneration and revitalisation, in response to the Biennale theme set by Biennale curator Lesley Lokko, “Laboratory of the Future.” Along walls of the Pavilion are projections of photographs of Country and its evolution, together with an open archive of examples and strategies from contemporary practice, among which REALMstudios’ work featured.
REALMstudios' response to the theme provide reflection on the processes and strategies engaged in the work undertaken at Blind Creek, in Melbourne's north-eastern suburbs, expressed through a series of consecutive strategies in text and diagram, for future consideration and application.
The context, geographical, operational and conceptual, for this project is a series of drainage easements in Melbourne’s east. Once integral parts of the extensive and interconnected network of waterways in the Birrarung (Yarra River) Valley, these creeks were home of the Wurundjeri people of the Yulin Nation. These riparian corridors were travelling routes, settlement sites and food and water sources, especially in times of drought, when humans and animals alike would gather around clearings in the forest along creeks, where vegetation continued to flourish.
The creeks were part of a regional-scaled natural flood management system, fluctuating through drought and inundation. The Wurundjeri have co-existed with this fluid landscape for millennia, as custodians of Country and its ecosystems. The richness of the landscape for which they cared, and their deep knowledge, endure today - this project aims to recover some of this richness, and restore some of this knowledge.
Contemporary management, engineering and hydrological practices had reduced the corridors to monocultures, dedicated only to the efficient conveyance of water through the landscape.
This was our starting point.
The primary physical act was the removal of boundaries, both physical and conceptual, that segregated the drainage easement from surrounding ecologies, both human and natural. This included the deconstruction of the trapezoidal concrete drainage channel; once this dangerous canyon was removed, fences separating the corridor from surrounding residential neighbourhoods could also be removed.
Once boundaries and barriers are removed, or even breached, the possibility exists for excluded constituents to enter the space of the easement. These are both human and natural players, as well as dynamic climatic forces. Some of the invisible barriers removed include suppressive regimes and management programs, like herbicides, mowing or animal removal. Birds, animals, local children enter, and all that these exploratory constituents carry (and drop).
Removing elements and instruments of control is both an acknowledgement and eventual acceptance of natural forces, rather than trying to resist them. The creek becomes again NOT a human space, but rather an entity in its own right. We accept that social infrastructure sometimes is submerged; more challenging, but equally necessary, is the idea that sometimes, humans also have to relinquish occupation.
Instead of solely human-led authorship, the project eventually allows a vast range of endemic agency in the re-occupation and reimagination of the site. Curators include animals, plants, local kids, the wind and the creek itself.
Having ceded control, unpredictability becomes part of the eventual outcomes. This evolutionary process, in which time is an essential requirement, allows for shifting alignments, unplanned compositions and material transformations.The diagram, like the reimagined creek itself, is an organic and continuously shifting entity, which, aside from showing time, and overlapping ecologies, is engagingly messy.
Blind Creek, Victoria
E2 DesignLab, Alluvium Consulting, Melbourne Water