MANOEUVRES THROUGH HOARDING

+SiteStudio

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260 Sydney Road is a site set to be transformed into a ‘Park Close to Home,’ as part of the Moreland City Council’s plan to “fill open space gaps” in their locale, within Melbourne. The site is a patchwork of concrete hardstands, or an informal carpark; it is known as that place near the Retreat with the kebab stand. Sitting across the road from the Town Hall near the corner of Glenlyon and Sydney Road, the site bridges influential neighbours as a non-building of sorts—as a flat open(ish) space—allowing for a visual standoff between Council and Church. At face value, this site appears as a blank canvas, yet it is anything but empty.[1] 

The Fence is a false facade of typical steel mesh construction and textile hoarding. It is erected upon, and as, a declaration of the council's purchase of no.260 from the church.[2] The locking and tightening up of potential liabilities looms amongst the decaying canopy at the rear of site. Asserting a  new attentiveness to security, the Fence was a veiled premonition of the works on site and subsequent public open space, which were planned to begin in 2020. The Fence, however, quickly departed from being an indication and enabler of construction. Now, it is simply a not-so-temporary placeholder for the proposed revitalisation works.[3] 

The Hardstand is bad ground in need of a contractor's deft hands to ‘make good,’ so that the delicately litigious public can walk the site without tripping up on its crimps and creases. The clearing of these inconsistencies delayed the formalisation of no.260, and in doing so created the space necessary for an informal park to emerge: an unintended handover to whoever's about, a misstep, or half step in council’s intended timeline. In this present, liminal condition, a bong, a jacket, later a needle and a concentration of mostly smoked ciggies lay scattered against the rear wall under the same canopy. These traces suggest the site as perhaps a home, a retreat, or maybe just a place to relocate these activities from unwanted attention. The privacy provided by the fence not only allowed for such informal occupations, but also engendered a sense of remoteness; for us, once we stepped on site there was a separation between ourselves and the city at large. Always working behind the fence, intimately - just us and site. 


The Project began with our—+Site Studio’s—commission by These Are the Projects We Do Together to design a ground cover graphic and treatment for the site before another conversion into a park, with an emphasis placed on responding to existing site conditions.[4] Since the site spent much of 2020 locked up, and ourselves, ‘locked down’, our initial access to this place was remote and delayed, consisting of walk-bys and satellite methods, teasing our desire to observe.[5] The site was viewed only through narrow and fleeting temporalities. Eventually, we were handed the code to the lockbox, and able to step beyond the fence. We then began a private and sensitive process of on-site observation; a sharp-eyed but light-handed cataloguing of all that was, and is, present. Getting up close with these artefacts—now marked with a poignant expiry date of being ‘made good’—we took to the ground by means of intermediary acts. Touching the ground with chalk spray, we mingled temporal guides, with a considered 1.5m grid,[6] in a performative mode of both structured observation and creation: to spray the grid was to measure every 1.5m, to bend down every 1.5m, to check every 1.5m… to step back, and see multiples of 1.5m, marked all over the site. By imprinting our own artefactual traces onto the site, momentary characteristics and various details became apparent within the ground; unusual intersections between cracks, joints, and moss growths, the subtle palimpsests of past concretes and their textures, fills, holes, sumps, cuts, and mortar remnants. Taking it slowly, we got to know these seemingly unremarkable hardstands rather well. Importantly, this ground graphic making is intended to be both performative and processional. The design is as much about the process of installation as it is a ‘final’ visual outcome. Whilst spraying out moments of colour across the site, we aim for our collective +Site Studio presence to attract the presence of others, in a way that spontaneously activates the site. 

We come and go, the chalk spray will eventually fade, and these on-ground artefacts will gradually disappear. However, through our methodical, photographic documentation of this place and its happenings, both our, and the site’s, characteristics and interactions are graphically frozen. As for the fence, its tangible presence will inevitably disappear from the site; and our occupation, as designers, will be equally transient. These layers of colour with their familiar footprints will last no longer than perhaps a season.

A Place, A Location, A Space
Lying Dormant, Existing, Resting
Connecting, Sitting in between, Mediating
That which meets the eye, That which is visually explicit, That which is present
Not without history, Not without character, Not without interest
Yet generic, Yet standard, Yet common
Securitising, Safeguarding, Insuring
This surface, This slab, This plane
Through glimpses, Through snapshots, Through timestamps
Becoming choreography, Becoming process, Becoming display 
The event, The ceremony, Coming together

 

[1] For us, 260 is an opportunity to have a crack, to leave our mark on the city and locale. The site propositioned an aesthetic delight, a minimalist ground or a seemingly-blank canvas.

[2] A purchase presupposed by the announcement of the purchase, an interestingly nonlinear project progression...

[3] A liminal marker of the transition between the informalities of the carpark to the formalities of a programmed park.

[4] The question this always raises inevitably becomes: “What is there?”

[5] A re-questioning and reiteration, again. “What is there?”

[6] A observed spatial module born out of responses to the global Covid19 pandemic.