Designed by NAAU for the Australian ‘Transiting Cities’ competition, their Cultured Landscape proposal examines generative strategies for re-purposing the region, which is currently a center of brown coal fired power production, into a center of clean energy research and development, sustainable agriculture and eco-tourism. Drawing on an analysis of the existing agglomeration of towns, roads, infrastructure, and social and cultural sites, the project is configured around a generative network that will act as a growth structure for the future development of the region. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The Cultured Landscape is a strategy for the future of the Latrobe valley which imagines an active networked ecology of infrastructural, agricultural and socio-cultural interventions. The Latrobe Valley region has a long history of active occupation and cultivation. Following white settlement the landscape has been progressively altered to facilitate the production of agricultural resources, and later, the industrial scale mining of coal and the associated infrastructural development associated with power generation.
As the world moves towards a carbon economy, the large scale mining and coal fired power operations of the region are rapidly becoming financial unviable and subsequently obsolete. In response to this the prevailing approach is to withdraw from these sites and allow them to return to what is generally perceived as a natural state. However, to do so in the Latrobe Valley would fundamentally disregard a crucial part of its history as a constructed environment.
The cultured landscape seeks to extend this paradox and develop the Latrobe Valley as an artificially grown, synthesized terrain that departs from the post-industrial context of the present day and examines ways in which the future evolution of the region can be driven by sustainable development. Although the coal fired power generation is destined to cease in 2030 – a significant portion of the value of the national electrical system is comprised on the high-voltage transmission network; which due to the historical contribution of the Latrobe valley to Victoria’s power supply, is significantly concentrated on or around the competition site.
The Cultured Landscape recognizes this significant infrastructure investment, along with the social and historical value to power generation to the community; re-inventing the role of power generation with the Latrobe valley from carbon-heavy to carbon-lite – with the Latrobe Valley transmission infrastructure seen as an opportunity; to tap and test the next generation of low carbon or carbon neutral generation technologies , uniquely suited to the variety of landscape and geological conditions identified within the competition site.
In the proposed network, areas of confluence will become key nodes points around which a series of speculative architectures and landscapes are proposed. The Latrobe Valley has a long and significant industrial heritage; a heritage that has made substantial contributions to the development of Victoria and Australia as a whole. In the transition to a low-carbon future for the Latrobe valley & the remediation of the coal mining sites; this industrial heritage should be recognized and celebrated. The Cultured Landscape proposes to retain and adaptively re-use the significant industrial infrastructure as a visible presence within the landscape, an industrial archaeology celebrating the social history of the site.
This strategy facilitates the adaptive reuse of the pre-existing marginalized sites in the study area, as well as the opportunistic insertion of new agricultural, infrastructural and cultural programs. The proposed programs are organised as a matrix of new uses that are connected symbiotically to the existing network as complimentary couplings.
This ecology of new developments is comprised of programs that seek to re-think, re-generate, re-brand, re-work and re-activate the Latrobe valley as an exemplar of sustainable growth. These can be broken down into three key categories; Infrastructure – sustainable power generation centers including geo-thermal and solar farming. These facilities make use of the existing sites of power generation and the grid which connects them to the rest of the country; Agriculture – production of raw materials for bio-fuel including algae farms and sustainable farming practice with an emphasis on local produce; Culture – eco-tourism and leisure sites including geothermal hot springs, water sports and camping areas, as well as new educational facilities, museums and campus facilities that reference the proposed infrastructural and agricultural agenda of the region. These proposed facilities form a network of interventions that are scattered through the broader Latrobe valley synergistically.
The project has explored this ideology through a test section of the landscape; a single transect that bifurcates the broader site and suggests the potential outcome of the approach. From within this strip a series of discrete locations have been drawn and detailed to demonstrate the qualitative results of these interventions. These include the site of a solar power generation and research facility at the present day Hazelwood site and a sustainable residential expansion of north Morwell, an eco-tourism site and geothermal hot springs at the site of the present day Yallourn mine.
The Cultured Landscape offers vision for the Latrobe Valley comprised of a network of mutually supporting infrastructural, ecological and social interventions; promoting a rebranding, rethinking and reactivation of the regions identity; vision free of post-industrial (implying and evolution away from the sites heritage) connotations, rather one promoting a form eco-industrial symbiosis, where human impacts are balanced and implemented within the metrics of social and ecological sustainability.