Architecture - Masters
When looking to a shadow we see a hidden space, a place often overlooked and obscured from sight. It is only through illumination that we begin to see what resides in the shadows, bringing to the forefront what remains hidden. With the potentiality of light, shadows also offer a safe space, an area of protection, of privacy and to feel at home. The proposed Urban Commons in Roma Street Parklands looks to operate within this relationship between shadow and illumination. Illumination as in moments where children are acknowledged, championed, given a space to flourish; shadows as in a safe space, a private space where they can feel comfortable and themselves. Focusing on young children and their families, The Shadows will provide this focus group and the wider community a place of refuge, learning, respite and care.
Australia is at the critical cusp of defining how it responds to one of its most rapidly growing problems facing its society. Whilst certainly not a newly arisen concern, homelessness issues have and continue to plague our society and in recent times, we have seen new trends emerge suggesting the problem is only worsening. With the current global pandemic dramatically effecting the health and livelihoods of our society at large, our world has witnessed how an unprecedented series of events can spark a cataclysmic chain reaction with truly traumatic consequences. This studio endeavours to guide a timely exploration of solutions for people and communities who suffer the ramifications of displacement and marginalization with Australia, specifically focussing on those who do not have a home.
When examining Australia’s growing homelessness epidemic, it becomes clear that three key elements must be considered: 1) the scale of homelessness in Australia, 2) the contexts in which homelessness is generated, and 3) the dynamics which shape differing experiences of homelessness (Chamberlain et al., 2014, p. 1). Within Australia, the 2016 Census revealed that “there were 116,427 people enumerated … who [were] classified as being homeless on Census night (up from 102,439 persons in 2011)” (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018, Key Results). The most significant increase in homelessness was recorded in the category of “… persons living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, up from 41, 70 in 2011 to 51,088 in 2016” (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018, Key Results). Queensland was ranked the third highest state for rate of homeless persons per 10,000 of the population in 2016, with 46.1 homeless people per 10,000 persons (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018, States and Territories).
What remains critical to understand is that homelessness is an ever-changing problem; and so, as a country it is essential to analyse current trends and circumstances to more holistically appreciate how current and future policy remains relevant and holds the ability to effectively create a shift in the lives of homeless Australians. When addressing the causes and effects of various social, cultural and economic inequalities which homeless persons may experience, the highly personal nature of how an individual may fall upon being without a home highlights how intervention must likewise reflect the element of tailored solutions. Nonetheless, while we acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach will likely fail, it is largely agreed upon that solving Australia’s homelessness crisis “… requires a long-term and systematic effort across agencies, sectors and the community” (Australian Government Department of Social Services, 2019, para. 1). Within Australia, there has long remained a duality between addressing the issue from a perspective of solely requiring a housing solution or requiring a multi-faceted approach. However, if housing would be the primary solution, this debate would not still be as prominent today as in past decades. In such a context, the proposed design will provide strategies to address homelessness from the consensus that it in fact demands a holistic intervention, stressing that it prominently needs both support and community as well as some degree of housing.
Operating in such a duality, the work looks to the conceptual framework of ‘The Shadows’. When looking to a shadow we see a hidden space, a place often overlooked and obscured from sight. It is only through illumination that we begin to see what resides in the shadows, bringing to the forefront what remains hidden. With the potentiality of light, shadows also offer a safe space, an area of protection, of privacy and to feel at home. The proposed Urban Hub in Roma Street Parklands much like the relationship of holistic and specified design; the proposed Hub looks to operate within this relationship between shadow and illumination: focusing on the afore mentioned young children and their families, the Hub will provide these people with a place of refuge, learning, respite and care.
In regard to enabling active and healthy lifestyles, the proposed Hub has playgrounds scattered around its ground levels. These playgrounds are interspersed with community gardens and other forms of wild life which help to create a lifeful and enjoyable atmosphere. Sporting facilities can also be found on this ground level as well as the roof. Social sports, classes and other sporting activities are available to children, their families and wider community members. This facet is key to the development of the space, not just the at-risk people that it invites in but the community as a whole that can help generate a safe and friendly space for these people.
The described green spaces that can be seen throughout the structure in not only the exterior but also the interior help encourage an ecological mindset when engaging with the space and this is echoed throughout the design itself with collected rain water being reused in these garden spaces and solar power being used to collect energy for use in the facade projectors that activate at night.
Located nearest to the train station in the Roma Street Parklands, the Urban Hub provides a central location for at risk children and young families to come and feel protected, and safe. Trains, taxis and buses can easily access this area with the Hub also walking distance from the City, Valley and mobile activated transport also being able to reach the space effectively from places like South Bank, South Brisbane and West End. The Hub provides several spatial and socio-cultural opportunities for members of both this specific group and the wider public such as the previously described play spaces, community gardens, and sporting facilities, but also learning facilities, health services, an Indigenous learning centre, libraries, art galleries, technology banks and emergency housing units. The emergency housing is key as it offers a specific solution to homelessness, but it should be stressed that the building facilitates a wider multi-faceted approach to addressing this problem. Community if anything helps engage this pluralism, and as mentioned before this intermixing of at-risk groups and a wider audience is key to the space, with it fostered continuously throughout the facilities and their accessibility.
Generating an environment of giving, those who are willing to give to The Shadows are encouraged to do so and a full circle initiative is engaged in the Hub’s ethos. Not just looking at ecological sustainability but also economic and social, where those that invest in the space either monetarily or socially find themselves not only bettering the facility but the community around them as that investment of money or kindness circulates round to those who need it.
Sarah aspires to combine her interests of architecture and the built environment to respond to complex design problems holistically, fostering connections to places and spaces which make us feel good.