A Transformational Landscape

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The history of the Auckland Domain’s story began around 60,000 BC with the volcanic eruption of Pukekawa. This event activated the site as a transformational landscape and became the genesis for this thesis. Following an analysis of the cultural, geological and environmental dimensions of the Auckland Domain, its intrinsically transformational qualities were gradually understood. Following the eruption, lakes of molten lava were slowly transformed into swampy gullies, abundant with wildlife. These wetlands were later drained to form colonial cricket playing fields.

Since these occurrences the site has been host to a myriad of different social events, embodying politics, war, remembrance, wonder and spectacle. The picturesque landscape of the domain can be understood as a heterotopia; an embodiment of another world. 

Given the intrinsically changeable landscape, this thesis questions whether the rich environment of the Auckland Domain is being used to its full potential. There are several occasions each year when people arrive en masse to experience these transient moments of nostalgia, remembrance, wonder and spectacle, but what happens between these events? Can the Auckland Domain be reactivated as a transformational landscape which allows for a continuous immersive celebration of its history?

It is perhaps most fitting to imagine the rich history of this transformational landscape though the concept of collage rather than as a traditional linear narrative. The methodology of collage embraces layering as a technique to build up formal and conceptual compositions. The idea of layering became an important driver in the generative making process for this thesis, as iterative models provided material through which concepts of transformational topography where developed.

The design focuses on the concept of observation to activate and enhance the landscape through both personal and collective perception. Through the tactical implementation of a series of interventions, the ‘naturally occurring’ is celebrated and experienced. There is a fantastical, whimsical and nostalgic quality to the project, which was realised through the in-depth analysis of the site's history as a transformative landscape. The largest intervention, a reinstatement of the wetlands, allows for a reactivation of the landscape creating an immersive environment prone to perpetual transformations. Above the wetlands, like a celestial orb, sits floating topography. This intervention is the culmination of the project, encapsulating and enhancing the Auckland Domain’s rich cultural, historic and volcanic landscape.

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