Hospes: A curatorial approach to complexity in the city

Kavita Sharma

Intro Image Landscape Network
A diagram of the ecology methodology developed within the thesis and tested through the case study of the Urban Village project. The diagram illustrates the ecology of the project and the design of relationships and connections as part of the methodology.

This thesis, as part of the Urban Pedagogy Lab, investigates how to design within a complex city. Collaborating with the Auckland District Health Board, this thesis develops a methodology for speculating the future of the Greenlane Clinical Centre.

Located at the centre of the Auckland isthmus, the site is encompassed by various urban artefacts: an imposing civic park and significant maunga, a prominent racecourse and showgrounds, and a low-rise residential neighbourhood. For decades this site has developed in an ad hoc, 'top-down' manner, collecting a myriad of problems which affect staff and patients daily. The site operates as an insular modernist campus, confined by District Health Board boundaries and at an impasse with its issues. It is a bubble separated from the urban realm, floating in space.

In response, this thesis initially interrogates existing design approaches to complexity, principally those of Cedric Price and his 'material-semiotic method.'

The city is recast as an 'ecology', where a built object is an intervention in existing systems and networks, employing Price's method and framework. The Greenlane site is shown to operate beyond its most discernible spatial thresholds, using mapping as a generative tool to visualise this ecology. Every spatial, social, institutional, economic and cultural connection is a form of interdependence with the wider city: the bubble is burst.

By embracing this density of relationships, complexity is an opportunity and a tool. Connections become catalysts for design, capturing the latent potential of the ecology. The design of a collection of dwellings tests this methodology. By leveraging the connective agency of the users and allying public institutions, the project emerges from the gap between the utopian and the realist. The design extends beyond the architectural object to include the surrounding ecology of the structural, social and economic.

Ultimately, this thesis presents a new role for the architect. In the tangled complexity of the urban, the architect curates the threads of connection and relationships, and assumes the role of curator.

Full Width Image Ecology Mapping
The ecology mapping was a generative tool, to recast the site and the city as an ecological complexity - an intense web of connection. Responding to the Urban Pedagogy Lab strategy (top video), this tool was developed to find ways of opening the site to the urban context. From this mapping emerged moments of interdependence, leverage points for speculations, .e.g. the swimming pool (second video)
Full Width Image Hud And Investment
The leverage point for the case study design project was the connection between housing and health (left), and thus the relationship between the ADHB and other organisations and sectors. Beyond the built object, a speculative investment diagram was developed to understand how to bring in outside investment and collaboration for the development of the site (right)..
Full Width Image Grid Of Scenarios Right Aligned 2
From the ecology mapping, different scenarios were generated, as users were impacted by the housing-health link. These scenarios became the different types of residents for the Urban Village Project.
Full Width Image Plans
Each scenario defined a unique floor plan, and type of dwelling. The design of the project started from the small scale of the individual floor plans, and then developed incrementally up in scale. This design process illustrated the ecology methodology: designing connections.
Full Width Image Renders
The design emphasises the moments of interaction between the different residents, and how these connections are prompted by the architecture. For instance, the interaction of the urban village and the neighbourhood mediated through the row of staff houses (left) along the street edge, or the 'dutch windows' (center) to allow a bed-bound patient to interact with the outside world. Across the design, terraces are used to encourage connection between the users (e.g. staff houses, right).
Full Width Image Siteplan
In response to the ADHB ‘top-down’ approach to the site, the design was developed (to avoid being another masterplan) through the bottom-up human scale. Open public spaces/facilities were also included, to bring the public into the site and provide amenity for the wider city.
Full Width Image Row Of Concepts
Organising the different blocks were three overarching principles. The sites sloping terrain and residential context were drivers for the form of the scheme. The in-between, circulation spaces were conceived of as spaces of interaction.
Full Width Image Axo
The final case study project - the Urban Village - tested the ecology methodology, to explore how this approach to complexity could generate a piece of architecture, beyond the built object.