by Nic Quantock-Holmes
A resilient city adopts ideologies consistent with adaptability and resistance as it answers to its inhabitants’ dynamic social needs. As innovation tends to concentrate in cities, urban resilience then implies that cities are not just part of the problem but also part of the solution. There’s an ephemeral uncertainty present at the site of a displaced wool store in North Melbourne’s industrial fringe. This ‘Other Space’, like its neglected counterparts, is part of a broader network of disused allotments identifiable as places at the mercy of natural processes, irregular maintenance, and mis-governance.
LOCATION: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
While the bi-annual chemical fight against Melbourne’s most persistent weedy ecologies plays out a similar spatially transformative response is born out of this quasi-legal theatre of paradoxes. The degraded allotment became self-regulating under the consistent presence and perceived social responsibility of a small group of us electing to build, maintain and act as part-time custodians of such an overlooked urban margin. With a plethora of construction ready materials being ignorantly dumped across the site, a determined crew of 6 on a good day and 2 on a bad, embarked on what would become Melbourne’s newest most nuanced DIY skatepark. Or so we thought.
1. 85-105 Sutton street, in all its glory | photographs by Oli Brown
2. To build, to skate | photographs by Oli Brown
3. After work, work | photographs by Oli Brown
Five months on, it’s time to reflect. Cars and trains still whizz past at the same speed they used to, weeds still grow as quick as you can say ‘Roundup’ and although there aren’t as many skateboarders, our ‘1-Tonne’ planter seat still exists. The woody-meadow inspired medley of plants are flourishing within, and bees have been sited collecting nectar from the exceptionally productive Alyogyne huegelii; the sites resident native hibiscus. We know the seat must one day go, medium to high density development is inbound, we’ve seen it happening within the confines of the Upfield trainline corridor already. However, there’s an argument here for the value of indeterminant land use and activation. If not us, then who? and if not skateboarding, then what? How can these microcosms of human expression be best harnessed to evoke organic spatial and social intent within this resilient city. In the society of spectacle, what will be traced of our collective memories and improvised reflections of necessity in the temporal urban margin?
(View the film here)