Scouring the thin city: an investigation into Perth through the medium of mapping by Beth George

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Abstract

Perth, Western Australia – a city become region one hundred kilometres in length and expanding yet – is a place variously adored and scorned; one noted widely for its landscape and its horizon, and relatively rarely for its architecture. Young, low lying, and sparsely lined with built form, Perth might be described as a thin city.

The intent of this research is to entreat an optimistic and inquisitive reading of the city of Perth through the conceptualisation of a set of six narrative threads. Six fictive interpretations of Perth, each denoting qualities of thinness, are cast toward the factual city, inviting both confirmation and opposition to their themes. They are: private city, wide city, even city, city of the immediate future, reserve city and city of form fixation. The process of elucidating and questioning the presence of these narratives allows for thicknesses to emerge from the city region; latencies with which the city can be redressed.

The mechanism for directing this interpretive view of the city is the process of mapping. Each narrative thread has been explored through the formulation of a set of maps as a visual text. Through the paired workings of the narratives and the mappings, opportune conditions and operations are uncovered within the thin city, complexities that belie the ubiquity of its surface.

Mappings shift in scope from the scale of the region to a site of richness at its core, sampling out entities, structures and performative processes at work in the city’s plan, distilling opportune sites that are then explored via the architectural project. At once analytical and synthetic, mappings identify existing points of intrigue and simultaneously invite their extrapolation. With the thin city narratives driving the content of the maps and forming the basis for their projectual exploration, this research seeks to engage with the nascent city and offer to it an armature for its amplification that operates within the city’s delirium, its peculiarity, its distinctiveness.

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