Vol. 09 Repair


Volume 9 Call for Papers Image

Latrobe Valley Mine, Photo by State Government of Victora: DELWP, 2020

Violent “scars” on the landscape, open-cut mines present sizable injuries needing repair. Identified as the single most significant contributor towards climate change by COP26, limiting coal mining and fuel usage is urgent. In favour of renewable alternatives, the Victorian Government is in the process of retiring the Latrobe Valley’s open-cut mines, one of the world’s largest known brown coal deposits. This action calls into question the region’s future, the impact on coal communities and their industrial landscapes. In light of this, Inflection vol. 09 is seeking work that reflects a contemporary metamorphosis based on the concept of Repair as a nuanced approach to architectural design in the 21st century.

The Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy proposes flooding the pits to create a series of artificial lakes.  Following adaptive precedents, including Grimshaw’s 2001 Eden Project in the UK, the proposal attempts to erase the industrial scars only to make a pseudo-return to nature, as environmentalists warn of the proposal’s detrimental consequences on neighbouring water catchments, exacerbating the environmental damage to the region. Reflecting on the words of landscape designer Gilles Clement, as curators and stewards of the “global garden” that is Earth, how may architects and practitioners repair the environmental damage we have caused without inducing further harm?

In healing the landscape’s wounds, we call on architects to reject the trend of destruction. Our capitalist economy presents a commercial incentive to raze and abandon rather than repair; this pattern of creating a tabula rasa, always building anew rather than salvaging and redeveloping existing sites, reflects the typical modernist dogma necessitating the fall of what existed before. In the contemporary design world, where finance favours destruction and rebuilding, we ask how architectural advocacy can revive the built environment, seeping repair into a culture of unending modernity and newness.

The current trend of material overconsumption and waste necessitates repair through recycled and renewable sources. We act as though resources are endless, yet material abundance is an illusion. According to a recent study updating the 1972 The Limits to Growth research, if the world maintains its current economic and population growth rates, the complete absence of natural materials will be seen within 20 years. Current construction practices directly affect the global natural environment, with carbon emissions and the use of finite materials significantly contributing to its decay and material scarcity. Attitudes of ‘greenwashing’ adopted by many architectural practices and the Australian government have further exaggerated the issue rather than engage with innovation.

However, an environmentally-friendly future has inherent consequences. With both the steel and cement industries using coal as the primary fuel for extracting iron ore and cement production, termination of coal supplies could lead to the absence of traditional construction materials—a crisis similar to current timber shortages. There is, therefore, an urgent need for a balance between environmental conservation and technological innovation, with frontier technologies investigating and developing substitute construction materials to meet traditional supply chain demands. Loofah Bricks, made of organic loofah fibres, are not only a viable substitute, but increased loofah plantings would also improve soil quality, replenishing the local ecosystem. Innovative technologies can produce strong, flexible, and renewable building materials with minimal environmental impact—key to future regenerative construction industries. In actively recovering our practices, we ask how we may repair the built environment without compromising the efficiency of traditional construction methodologies, facilitating a sustainable cycle of preservation.

By focusing on the work of a housekeeper for OMA’s Maison à  Bordeaux in the documentary Koolhaas Houselife, filmmakers Bêka & Lemoine capture contemporary architecture’s design indifference towards the labour of maintenance—a continuous form of repair. Contemporary architecture further stigmatises the work of service people, reinforcing social hierarchies, as the film showcases the house’s challenges regarding mundane domestic cleaning, its design valuing technology and aesthetic ahead of ease of maintenance. As design predetermines physical maintenance requirements, we question how contemporary architects may consider pre-emptive measures to facilitate the efficient repair of new buildings, alleviating the problem of sustained deterioration while acknowledging the vital work of the service industry.

To what extent should we repair damage? When should we embrace traces of human occupation exemplified in architectural deterioration and focus on its preservation? Since 1990, Køpi Squat in Berlin is decaying and defaced by graffiti yet inhabited by a vibrant Autonomist squatter community. As a symbol for the radical left, its community valorises the building’s damage and chaos, regarding it as art. Similarly, many cities worldwide—including Melbourne—maintain and even advocate for informal street art to activate and improve otherwise banal laneways, streets, and neighbourhoods. Such informal urban developments redefine what constitutes ‘good condition’ and reinforce the symbiotic relationship between built infrastructure and informal occupation facilitating urban repair. 

Meanwhile, in architectural abandonment, where the built environment and infrastructure segregate rather than unite, inhabitants drive revitalisation. In 2016, The German government resettled refugees escaping the Syrian civil war in Benjamin Franklin Village, Mannheim. With limited provisions, the community nonetheless transformed the abandoned US army barracks into a bustling village, revealing the resilience of communities despite deficient architectural infrastructure.  Mannheim’s resurrection exemplifies the potential revival of rural areas and other dying villages, reappropriating abandoned and underutilised infrastructure into new community hubs. Nevertheless, this example also reinforces that architecture’s role in restoring community is parametric rather than prescriptive, establishing loose systems and networks enabling the organic development of community on its own.

It is important to note that repair, through urban renewal, is often criticised for promoting gentrification and exacerbating social inequality in cities. Katie Jo Black and Mallory Richard’s study indicates that increasing green space through urban landscape repair projects is a leading cause of housing market increase. As established lower socio-economic communities are economically displaced from their urban neighbourhoods and relegated to peripheral suburbs, what constitutes ‘damage’ as well as the politics involved raises questions behind the intent of what needs to be ‘repaired.’ How can we recognise biases in the desire to repair the urban fabric and embrace rather than replace urban areas externally perceived as ‘broken?’

Repairing damage has implications of concealed history. Rejuvenating former industrial areas into natural landscapes hides an uncomfortable truth: the built industry has exacted significant environmental harm in the past. Similarly, repairing colonial infrastructure in Australia masks the fact that 200 years of European built heritage has often been to the detriment of the country’s indigenous cultural landscapes. Beneath The University of Melbourne’s colonial heritage grounds, natural creek systems carrying short-finned eels once valued by local Wurundjeri people are now invisible to the eye, rerouted into subterranean storm drains.  Other previous histories may be extinguished in choosing to restore historic buildings; as such, we ask how we can repair without erasing, simplifying, or hiding the complexity of the past.

In this edition of Inflection, we call for architects, practitioners, academics and students to consider Repair and engage with the opportunities it presents within the built environment while evaluating potential consequences and leading innovation in the field. Ultimately, how can architecture move into its next state of being by acknowledging and adapting rather than eliminating the existing?

Inflection vol. 09 editors welcome abstracts (300 words), drafts of academic pieces (up to 4,500 words), drafts of practice-oriented pieces (up to 1000 words), drafts of fictional pieces (up to 500 words) and visual artworks interpreting and exploring Repair and its influence on architecture, design and urban planning today. 


We accept submissions for abstracts, projects, or full length draft pieces for consideration at editorial@inflectionjournal.com by Friday, 11th February 2022.



  1. Miki Perkins, “Latrobe Valley mine 'pit lakes' risk river health in drying climate: reports”, Sydney Morning Herald, December 10, 2020.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Gaya Herrington, "Update to limits to growth: Comparing the World3 model with empirical data," Journal of Industrial Ecology (Yale University), vol. 25 (3), pages 614-626.

  4. Philip Oltermann, “Sanctuary or ghetto? How Mannheim created a 'city within a city' for refugees,” Guardian, April 11, 2016.

  5. Katie Jo Black & Mallory Richards, “Eco-gentrification and who benefits from urban green amenities: NYC’s high Line,” Landscape and Urban Planning 204, Dec 2020.

  6. Zach Hope, “One eel of a story: the slippery truth of a fishy underground migration,” Age, February 6, 2021.

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