The transformation of White Bay Power Station into a Civic Centre for Urban Resilience will create a new landmark for Sydney. By drawing strongly on the Bays Precinct’s heritage the facility will provide authenticity and demonstrate flexibility and resilience for future adaptation. The RES.CITIES.LAB will focus on enhancing a knowledge economy by creating a destination and reference point for Sydneysiders and the global community to share and connect. A place of contemplation, discussion and innovation, allowing for opportunities to engage and create awareness about topical social issues of contemporary and future global society. Grounded in the essence of site, the proposed function intends to subvert the industrialised notion of the democratisation of consumption – ‘man and the machine’, to ‘man as the machine’, a driver for social change, placing Sydney on the map as an internationally competitive and globally relevant city. As a space invested in by the government, it provides constant dialogue with the government, giving people a safe space to communicate, enhancing the identity of Australia as a socially inclusive, emotionally intelligent and democratic society.
Historically, the White Bay precinct was a hub of trade and industrialisation in which White Bay Power Station played a significant role in driving the economy of Sydney through providing power for Sydney’s vital rail network, allowing the region to expand and prosper (Urban Growth, 2015). The 21st century brought a shift towards human-centric approaches, aimed at creating ‘Resilient Cities’, which focused on enhancing global competitiveness through propelling a ‘knowledge economy’ (100RC, 2016). The 100RC initiative defines ‘resilience’ as ‘the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt and thrive no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they may experience’. According to Sydney’s preliminary Resilience Assessment Report 2016, key challenges that Sydney face are:
1. Hyper-diversity; resulting in a lack of social cohesion and distrust
2. Spatial inequity and inaccessibility
3. Approach to governance; a lack of understanding of connections and interdependencies (A disconnected network)
In response to these issues, by creating an infrastructure that embodies the 100RC behaviours of: ‘awareness, integration, adaptation, diversity and self-regulation’, the city of Sydney can stay proactive, connected and engaged. As a result, we can develop the intelligence to respond to current and future issues of society.
Through an analysis of Sydney’s urban civic context, it can be concluded that there is an insufficient/
unknown amount of civic space that people identify with as a reference point for topical discussion and dialogue with the government. Moreover, Civic space is defined as a place where one has ‘the freedom and means to speak, access information, associate, organise and participate in public decision making’
(Malena, 2015). It could be said that this increase in spatial inequity and cultural diversity poses a clear challenge for the government to ensure that people feel safe, understood and have an equal say. As political author William Greider highlights, ‘Democracy begins in human conversation’ (2009). In response to this notion, I intend to create a safe space where one is encouraged to seek to understand through dialogue, ultimately propelling active community growth.
The intention behind the form came through looking into architecture as dialogue. By extending an empathetic, yet contrasting approach to site, I aimed to utilise form to create new vistas and enhance alternative perspectives. Beginning with the site’s inherent grid structure, the form intends to mimic conversational behaviours through its extrusions, offsets and intersections with the existing. This interplay of the exponential plane within the horizontal and vertical intends to subvert the industrialised notions of rational logic.
The interiors phase intends to explore in more depth the resilience behaviours of awareness, integration, self-regulation and adaptation through creating a multi sensory architecture that encourages particular focus on the haptic realm. Through proposed programmatic elements I intend to create conversational environments that play on materiality grounded in the essence of the site and it’s sensory experience. The aim is to encourage a dialogue between site, architecture and inhabitant through creating an interactive experience, which facilitates a sense of belonging and integration.
Accentuating form by highlighting the ‘space in-between’, each lighting element plays a critical role in guiding one’s spatial behavioural response, whether it be repetitive and rhythmic to engage a sense of movement and pause or adjustable to encourage free scattered movement, each space varies from one to the next.