Artificial Positions: Critical Infrastructure as Fluid Geographies

Type: Advanced Architectural Design Studio (Masters)
Location: School of Architecture, University of Queensland
Fieldwork: Sydney
Year: 2015 (sem 2)
Collaboration: Amelia Hine (research)


This is the age of the Anthropocene; an era whereby the long perpetuated notion of a nature/culture divide has ended. It is a time when human impact has irreversibly altered the terrestrial biosphere at such levels that it has caused a dramatic shift in geology itself, demarcating it against all prior epochs.
Nothing is left untouched.

In this context, all landscapes can be seen as constructions – territories made complicit with the infrastructure that supports our globalised society. Shaped by complex power-relations, they are terrains linked through a system of networks that enable the continuous movement and storage of services, information, resources and capital. The unbuilt can no longer be defined. Every territory is a tangible recording of socio-political relationships: a physical reflection of ideology and societal demands over time.

At the heart of this condition is the landscape of the city, where networked systems are condensed and intensified to form a central entity. It is here where the practice of architecture has been traditionally focused but our notions of the city and its reach are fast changing. Is architecture responding to the contextual shifts brought about during this era of the Anthropocene? How does it define itself within this new reality of fluid systems and constructed landscapes at a scale and dimension previously incomprehensible?

What agency, if any, does the act of architecture possess in shaping this landscape to address the looming issues of this age? Can architecture become more than an indifferent byproduct of such conditions by reaching beyond its traditional practice?

This studio will explore these questions by testing the possibility for architecture to be positioned as a critical infrastructure and fluid geography in itself. Utilising visual prosthetics that allow unprecedented access to extreme macro and micro scales (satellites, aerial photography, electron microscopes etc.), the studio will look beyond the traditional scale of the ‘local’ and view these relationships in a broader, national and global context. With access to new perspectives comes new ways of seeing, ultimately changing the spatial understanding of users. Engagement with alternate modes of architectural communications will also be made.

The studio will focus on the contested territories wedged between Sydney’s airport and inner-southern suburbs. Students will be required to consider an expanded field of inputs – including politics, planning, social sciences, infrastructure, hydrology and ecology – in order to project an infrastructural landscape that engages with time as a critical design dimension. Specifically, the studio will test the possibilities for the convergence of environmental processes, technological innovation and hybridised program in an effort to inform new modes of public space.

Samuel Bowstead, Sophie Briggs, Erin Duggan, Sean Evangelista, Jessica Kane, Melissa Lee, Paige Lee, Sarah Lewandowski, Rebekah Macarthur, Sian Murphy, Claire Patterson, Michelle Rehn, Sophie Sachs, Guilia Scotti, Bridget Tighe, Anna Vallero, Isaac Vincent, Timothy Watson and William Wyer.