Activism & Politics Architecture Essays, Language, Writing

The Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-Booth. Alternative Visions - An Interview with the Gabba Community Vision Team

This is a limited edition print of Paradise Journal, an online and open-access publication for critical and experimental work on architecture in Australia.
Issue 01: Backyard

The Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-Booth 

There was a time when the backyard was synonymous with the laidback lifestyle of Down Under, a place carefree and vast. I’m talking about the hazy memory of a patch of yellowing summer lawn and a Hills Hoist spinning in the breeze. The backyard was a spot of empty space and a reminder of some long gone (but never-really-existent) rural idyll. Is the backyard of yesteryear no longer there? Where has it gone and how should we mourn its loss?

The most recent season of the mainstream renovation show, The Block, does away with the backyard as we remember it. Airing every second night on Channel 9 for the past fifteen years (ironically replacing the home DIY show, Burke’s Backyard in its original Friday evening slot), The Block blurs the boundaries between reality TV, DIY home renovating and the competition show genres. It invites contenders – almost always in a heterosexual coupling, save for the every-now-and-then exception of two mates, two siblings, or more recently the daddy/daughter duo of Tash and Harry – to interpret an architectural plan prescribed by the producers.

Paradise Journal, 2021
English
Softcover, 24 pages
105mm x 150mm

 Alternative Visions - An Interview with the Gabba Community Vision Team

In April 2016, after years of revisions, the Queensland State Government announced its largest ever infrastructure project — the Cross-River Rail. Aiming to meet the growing demand for train services in Brisbane, the proposal outlined an increased capacity for inner city rail services, with five new station precincts to be constructed. The stations are to be linked by 10.2 km of new trackwork, including a 5.6 km tunnel under the CBD and Brisbane River.

One of these major precincts is located in the south Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba. Prominently positioned opposite The Gabba Stadium — a premier sports and entertainment centre in Australia — the 5.5  ha site is earmarked to host substantial residential, commercial and retail development alongside the new station. Early promotional material issued by the state government features the shadowy figures of 12 high-rise towers up to 30 storeys tall, standing amongst large swathes of sparsely vegetated open space. Though the state currently retains ownership of the land, the site’s designation as a Priority Development Area (PDA), as well as the impending urban transformation, point towards the clear intention of selling the land off for private development.

It is this site that has become the focal point for a small band of architectural graduates and students in Brisbane. Initiated by Greens Councillor for the Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri, Gabba Community Vision have produced a number of alternative visions for how the site may be occupied. In the place of monolithic high-rise towers, the visions propose a site that hosts a myriad of public programs — parklands, sporting facilities, workshops, a pool, library, community hall and more. Aiming to stimulate discussion about the future of this public space, the team uses these visions as a catalyst for engaging with the local community, as they seek to collectivise the practice of imagining alternative futures.

Taking advantage of the subversive processes of grassroots action, the small-scale, local engagement of Gabba Community Vision speaks to the broader ambitions of structural change from within and against the discipline of architecture itself. Paradise called the team early in 2021 to discuss the project, its processes, and the possibility of reclaiming architectural agency outside traditional forms of practice.

Paradise Journal, 2021
English
Softcover, 20   pages
105mm x 150mm

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The Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-BoothThe Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-Booth.      Alternative Visions - An Interview with the Gabba Community Vision TeamThe Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-Booth.      Alternative Visions - An Interview with the Gabba Community Vision TeamThe Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-Booth.      Alternative Visions - An Interview with the Gabba Community Vision TeamThe Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-Booth.      Alternative Visions - An Interview with the Gabba Community Vision TeamThe Block and the Backyard - Madeline Lo-Booth.      Alternative Visions - An Interview with the Gabba Community Vision Team