The Ooze

Will Martel

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The Ooze

The Ooze is a fictional story set on the land surrounding the Pāuatahanui Inlet, a unique estuary that lies some 40 kilometres north of Wellington. The work proposes alternative approaches to suburban sprawl-type housing and communities through alterations to existing building stock, the development of varied public spaces, and reintroducing native flora. The Ooze aims to make these topics accessible to a wide audience through a combination of short films and accompanying drawings.

The Ooze is told across three acts: first, why and how suburban developments take place; then, what a short-term, small-scale solution might look like; and finally, what form a long-term, urban-level solution could take.

Each act is communicated through a short film and architectural intervention. The links and summaries of the films are below, with the architectural interventions shown afterwards.

Act I:

‘The Villains’ shows caricatures of those responsible for the ever-growing suburban nightmare; The Developer, The Council Worker, The Residents Association Representative, and The Farmer. Together, controlled by the maleficent Whitby, they converge to form a huge beast that washes over the land, leaving only thoughtless, endless spec homes in its wake.



Act II:

‘The Victims’ shows those people left disenfranchised by the mundane reality of the suburbs. Devoid of human contact, they long for the outdoors without knowing what that exactly means. However, like ‘The Villains’, they coalesce to make one large hope-filled mass that rolls towards the existing Pāuatahanui Lighthouse Cinema. Together, they turn the building into a town hall, complete with artist studios, nurseries, and meeting space, whilst retaining the cinema and cafe functions. This building acts as a seed of joy within a monotonous environment, which will eventually spread out to encompass the wider development.


Finished Product

Act III:

‘The Victors’ uses the children of the previous eight characters to transform the development in its entirety. These changes can be understood through three large moves. The first was the alteration to the existing suburban houses planted in Act I. Each house is cut down the centre, east by west, with the northern half removed to be reused later. The remaining houses retain the same number of bedrooms and other essential programs despite now being half the size. The cut face is fully glazed, providing better passive design principles. The outdoor spaces surrounding these homes are reconfigured using native planting so that groups of four houses share communal lawns. Next, half of the removed houses are lifted onto nearby towers which straddle the former cul-de-sacs. These towers are for those who prefer to live in apartments while retaining access to the outdoors. Lastly, the Pāuatahanui Village was altered to provide better, large-scale community functions. The town hall from Act II spreads outwards, depositing further functions across the previously constricted village.


Critic's Text

Suburban sprawl is a shared experience, and people hold diverse opinions about it. Whether you embrace it or mostly loathe it, suburban sprawl is an undeniable reality. Will, however, offers a radical approach to address this issue. He delves into the history of the Ngāti Tara occupation and traces the evolution of the suburban landscape to its current state, examining its impact on local fauna and land use.

By uncovering the ecological repercussions of suburban subdivisions, Will establishes a clear link between the environment's decline and the challenges posed by suburbanization. Through a personal connection to the Pāutatahanui Township site, Will emphasizes the urgent need to address the issues at hand, using storytelling as a powerful medium to convey the message.

Will's exploration of storytelling, drawing, painting, modelling, set design, and animation is a source of delight. His narrative weaves between fable and parable, fiction and nonfiction, effectively informing and cautioning the reader. The architectural proposal is captivating, both in its response to the aesthetics of storytelling and its transformation of existing building structures. Each act in the narrative demonstrates the conversion of suburban spaces into areas that serve the social and environmental needs of the characters.

The Ooze presents an engaging and entertaining solution to the problems of suburbia, offering an alternative perspective to disrupt its mundane trajectory. Projects like this, which challenge and combat the "Ooze," are essential, and we can only hope that they will extend their positive impact to address urban sprawl issues in other parts of Aotearoa in the future.

-Matt Liggins, supervisor