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Saturation City: Now&When exhibition

Australian pavilion at the 2010 Venice Architecture Bienalle

The SaturationCity project was developed in response the curatorial proposition of the Now&When exhibition for the Australian pavilion of the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale: a request to imagine the future of Australian urban space in 41 years time.

Our proposition acknowledges that that real social and urban change is often during, or in response, to periods of crisis. While Australian urbanism is at a cross roads, due to rapid population growth, diminishing water resources and other issues, we thankfully have not reached a crisis requiring dramatic urban upheaval.

The conundrum for Australian urbanism is not that we have too little land, rather that we have too much - our cities expand on a diet of productive farmland and tenuous ribbons of infrastructure stretched to breaking point. In order to explore the future of Australian urbanism, we manufactured a crisis - a rise in sea level of 20m, tested around Melbourne and Port Philip Bay. By hypothesizing a future scenario, an exaggeration of the saturated coastal zone, a critical evaluation of urban value is performed: some zones are preserved, modified, transformed, others are returned to landscape.

Four key Australian urban typologies; the park/garden, the CBD, the suburb and the coastline, are subjected to dramatic densifications in response to the 'flood', acknowledging that future urbanism with be both fundamentally informed by existing models and be modified by emerging requirements.

Melbourne, and indeed Australia’s, urban heritage is intrinsically tied to the coastline culturally, psychologically and geographically. The shoreline is the epitome of the symbolic in between, neither wet nor dry, neither ours nor theirs, neither one nor the other. It is a saturated space, both solid and soft, an emblem of pride, a place of recreation, a protected yet desired asset. The shoreline is the location where the contemporary environmental debate plays out: the ongoing climate change dialogue implies a rise in sea levels resulting in global change. The shoreline is similarly not static, whether through natural incursion, human imposition or the inevitable evolution of coastal form, its location, reach and character are in constant flux.

These future urban spaces are born of this in between, an immediately coastal city but one born of an architectural and tectonic palette undeniably linked to the characteristics of the coastal zone. The project is not intended as a 'realistic' proposition, rather a 'thought experiment' for exploring a suite of design strategies within a radical hypothesis.

Ben Milbourne (Bild), Edmund Carter (Dyskors), Catherine Ranger, Jocelyn Chiew , Eli Giannini (MGS), Paul Carter (Material Thinking)