A search for common pleasures: curating the city by Sand Helsel

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Abstract

The project-based research questions how professionals working in the built environment can engage a broader range of ‘others’ (students, client, users) in ways of seeing and acting in a meaningful way. It challenges the role of the expert in architecture and urban design and in particular their use of the masterplan, which is often an oversimplified reductive response, laden with generalisations and the ill-considered overlay of inappropriate models.

Design methods are designed to enable us to see afresh and respond accordingly. These are demonstrated in three suites of projects that include urban installations such as Five Walks for the Melbourne International Arts Festival, war memorials, lectures, photographs and teaching practice such as Taipei Operations, a student workshop, architectural exhibition, and book.

The design research is situated within an expanded field of cross-disciplinary practice that includes art, landscape architecture, urban design, architecture and geography. Tools are developed to enable us to understand the city at many spatial and temporal scales; observations made at a micro scale reveal systems at a macro scale – a bottom-up approach.

The application of the methods explored implies that “everyone is an artist” (or architect) to quote Joseph Beuys. An architecture of enabling is espoused that encourages the participation of the user through the creation of systems and infrastructures that are ultimately out of the architect’s control. This positions the designer in a unique role that I call curation, a process that encourages multiple voices to be heard in the design of the city.

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