Parallax Landscape, an urban design collaborative, recently was named winner of the Transiting Cities design competition, sponsored by the Office of Urban Transportation Research (OUTR) at RMIT, a university in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Transiting Cities challenged urban designers around the world to re-imagine a low-carbon future for Latrobe City and the surrounding region. Latrobe has long been dominated by coal-fired electrical generation, but that high-carbon character is slated to disappear by 2030 as Australia transitions to a cleaner economy. Called Reassembling Flows, the winning design “aims to change this paradigm by repurposing existing infrastructures, optimizing resource utilization, and structurally integrating ecosystem services into design processes across multiple scales,” according to Parallax Landscape's presentation.
Parallax Landscape is a design collaborative consisting of Yu Ding, designer at Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates in New York; Kees Lokman, assistant professor of landscape architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.; and Melissa How, designer at Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect in New York. Communicating by email, How told me that the team knows each other from their design studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where they discovered “a shared interest in design and spatial strategies that operate at the intersection of landscape, ecology, and urbanism.”
How said competitions such as Transiting Cities “are a critical tool for exploring new approaches and design strategies,” especially for young design professionals and academics. This competition was compelling, she said, as it “focused on many issues that aligned with our research interests, such as rethinking how mono-functional infrastructures and singular economies can be recalibrated to allow for synergistic couplings of productive landscapes, cultural networks, and ecological systems.”
I asked the team why they think their presentation achieved first prize in the competition. Ding responded that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Reassembling Flows came in first, but she commented that her group believes their design “honors the rich and storied history of the [Latrobe] region while responding to the need for cleaner energy alternatives in a realistic and feasible manner,” doing so by “proposing a gradual shift over time from the current coal-oriented energy economy and opening up its remnants to its people.”
“Rather than simply obliterating the remnants of the existing energy infrastructures, Reassembling Flows incorporates existing infrastructures, optimizes resource utilization, and structurally integrates ecosystem services into design processes across multiple scales. An example of this are the existing open-cut coal mines, which, rather than being simply relegated to parkland or fallow brownfields, take on new life as functioning generators of energy, recreation, and flood control that address their own toxicity. Thus, the mines continue to play a significant role in the regional landscape, recalling the past and shaping the future. No longer seen as merely an exploited landscape of extraction, Latrobe becomes a key part in an extensive network of social, environmental, and economic exchanges that extends throughout and spatially connects the Gippsland Region.”
Images courtesy of Parallax Landscape.