AJH: Thesis in its current form

As I prepare my Dissertation Preparation, Research Context Assignment (3), it seemed like a good idea to actually post up how the Thesis process is going this semester and reflect on where am I...

Disclaimer: This is an almost factual revising of the process, however humans feel a need to classify and order, and therefore this makes a zig zag process appear more linear than is true.

I also wanted to post up that this week that I noticed a few of us felt quite down in relation to uni in general terms and now I think we are all mentally getting back on track or maybe just getting on with it. I felt very relieved that on speaking to a past star thesis graduate (STG) this level of self doubt/procrastination/ wandering in the mental wilderness, was felt by them.

Initial thoughts and keywords (Week 1-3)
Heritage, Fremantle, Sensory Experience, Documentation of the Significance of Places, Identity

Week 2 Poster (attached)
My ideas at this stage seemed to hinge on two separate themes, that of the sensory experience of heritage spaces and the context of Victoria Quay to Fremantle. Or it could be deduced that Victoria Quay is an example space to test out how you might document the sensory experience of places and the connections that are revealed from this way of observing. Yes quite incomplete, abstract ideas and without a strong problem.
Research theme: Qualitative/ Sensory experience of architecture.

A breakthrough research moment was this quote by Agnieshka Keira (City of Fremantle, Heritage Architect) in a study document on Victoria Quay, that further study is needed on 'the influence of the Port on the sense of community, character and identity of Fremantle'. This was I thought putting the words into my mouth of what I hadn't yet been able to say and validated my area of research (I worried about the overlap of my research with the many numerous and infinite government funded studies on Victoria Quay). This also extended my area of study from Victoria Quay to the Working Port of Fremantle.

Week 5 Poster- Research Mapping
The following themes:
  • The theories of GianCarlo De Carlo and his very detailed mapping of the town of Urbino, Italy. His idea that to map a place you must focus on both the physical context (for him this focused on the functions of spaces and their architectural characteristics) and the people's perception or image of a space, termed the objective and subjective, this leads you to the discovery of the urban memory of the place.
  • Case Studies- The pragmatic approach of understanding the context of Dockland Redevelopments through case studies of the regeneration of obsolete Port spaces; London Docklands, Melbourne, Singapore, Rotterdam, Wellington NZ etc.
  • Design Proposition was to activate an edge of the Port, to further integrate the Port into the City centre of Fremantle.
Feedback was how this mapping of both the physical evolution over time of the Port and the mapping of the sensory experience are brought together and use of Collage was suggested. I thought that the evolution and regeneration of the Port presents a much stronger problem than previously proposed.

Further Research to Date
  • I have now also looked at Aldo Rossi (I did try to resist at first- what a stupid idea) for his urban theories on urban artifacts and monuments. I like that in both Rossi's texts and DeCarlo's texts, they do criticise each others work. In my mind they complement each other with DeCarlo's strong focus on the holistic view of function, and Rossi's way of analysing the autonomous value of artifacts (buildings) without function. Both theorists are interested in the quantitative and qualitative value of urban matter.
  • This duality of these two aspects of site is a major area of interest of mine, termed in many of my readings: subjective/objective, quantitative/qualitative, tangible/intangible.
  • My research into the context of Docklands has revealed a few similar trends with this type of regeneration; that Docklands have always been isolated (mentally and physically) from the rest of the city through railway lines and storage necessary for their operations and that these spaces were not physically accessible so these ugly, industrial urban spaces became invisible, urban, blackholes. Another trend is that government control or lack thereof, for what is a huge endeavour to redevelop these spaces has normally been terribly handled or administered through economic short-sightedness.
  • I am currently trying to look into drawing techniques for my mapping for next Semester.
  • A book on a collection of writings on Heritage Landscapes, lead me to the writings of Humanist Geographer, Yi-Fu Tuan, the guy who came up with the theory on the distinction between space and place, which is widely used in Heritage ideologies of assessing.
Current Proposal:
I will research in-depth Docklands case studies this semester and will actually start the mapping of Fremantle next Semester. My intention is to create (find, explore, discover, test) a visual language which defines these two site aspects (tangible/intangible) of the Working Port in its relationship to Fremantle and then to design a process to translate these findings/framework into a small-scale design proposition (which is??). 70 Written & 30 Design breakdown.

Current questions/ objectives:
  • What are the real and perceived boundaries of the Port.
  • What is this visual language to determine: the significance of cultural landscapes or indeed any places, urban memory.
  • What small-scale project am I testing this against? Should I introduce new functions or help support existing Port functions for this site.

To everyone nice enough to read this, I would love your advice/comments/thoughts!!!


FJE said...

Very interesting.

Your thoughts on relationship between physicality/subjectivity were very interesting - I have had similar thoughts as I investigate the physical reality of a ruined farm house, then interview those who lived there. Artefacts taking on an aura of greater and changed meaning as you take on the culture around them. You've given me ideas for things to read.

I'll talk to you about the talk from Craig Burton I saw at the landscape forum (and give you the recording). He did a lot of mapping (some of Fremantle).

HG said...

Real and perceived boundaries of the Port - when I think of Fremantle, I think of the whole thing as a 'port city'. This is partially because fragments of Seddon's writings are embedded in my head as 'WA history' and so Fremantle = port, Guildford = agriculture, Perth = administration between the two. There's a good chapter on the establishment of Fremantle in 'Sense of Place' (I think...)

I suppose London and Melbourne's former docklands are similar to Singapore's quays along the river, but for me, Singapore is still very much a functioning port whereas I have hardly any idea where port functions occur in the other places. Its funny, because when I first thought of Singapore's historic port, I thought of the ports that line the southern coast, and I didn't think of Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, the towers of the CBD and the restaurants that line the Singapore River.

Singapore's quays are where the current CBD is situated, London's Docklands have become a second CBD... I suppose it is interesting to consider the symbolism - in WA it feels like all the towers are in Perth but Fremantle still has the cranes.

LW suggests it might be important to distinguish between port cities and cities with ports. One could argue that London was a port city but perhaps now, it is a city with what used to be a port. As for its port nowadays...I don't know where that is.

AJH said...

Thanks for this, yes my later research this weekend has been to categorise the ports, I have found that three people (Hoyle, Pinder and Husain) who have undertaken much research on Ports, also have this distinction between Port redevelopments where Ports have moved upstream (London, Melbourne, Most North American Cities) and those where Ports facilities have been reinvested in as part of redevelopment (Singapore, Rotterdam, Sydney, Genoa). I think that Fremantle is definitely in this later category- I do need to research any changes from the American Cup also. Somewhat non-surprising is that of the first category their has been much criticism that both Melbourne and London have represented wasted opportunities.

I think I will need to look at Seddon for this passage, and this is a new scale for the idea of Fremantle in its relationship to the establishment of Perth, something I had not considered. I wonder if Fremantle as a 'Port City' is more ingrained in our minds rather than our general experience of the place when we visit, as in my mind the City Centre (Cappuccino Strip, Church, Town Hall) is physically but not visually disconnected from the centre of the place, maybe this is because the train station bookends Market Street. I do think our approach to Fremantle's City Centre reinforces Fremantle as a Port City as you can't help but see it whether you arrive by train, car, bike, walking, due to geography and the cranes on the horizon. Maybe scale and disconnection is an important relationship. I do think that LW's advice represents to me personally the negative effects of getting it wrong, that these cities turn from Port Cities to Cities, it this a destruction or evolution of their identity?

HG said...

Just wondered if you have looked at the Pallasmaa text mentioned here and if not, I wonder if it is relevant or worth attending the reading circle? Found the book on Book Depository.

BM said...

Maybe a little late but...there was a Polish architecture couple who were guests at Curtin in 2008or09 who borrowed students to do an abstracted mapping of Fremantle and its surrounds (in the style of Gandelsonas if I remember correctly). It was sanctioned by the City of Fremantle and might give you some early mapping fodder at a pulled back scale showing the clashing city grids orientated to suit the port side/beach side and hill side of fremantle.

They were looking for opportunities in/at the gaps between the built and perceived.

AJH said...

Nope every comment any time is useful. Yep I have looked at the publication the Local Identity Code for Fremantle, which are the findings from these studies, however I have to go to the City of Fremantle Library again as the there is apparently a 'Source Code' publication which actually includes the investigative mappings?

I have tried just general net searching on this couple however I have not found much, or many publications/articles? FJE suggested that it may be because they may be in Polish??

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