In the face of expanding urbanisation, one of the opportunities for more resilient and sustainable cities is in the implementation of hybridised nature-based ecologies that function as engineering, community and landscape infrastructure. This is becoming more commonplace on greenfield sites. But very rarely does it happen in established city centres: partly because of land economics; and partly because of the difficulties associated with behaviour change in the community.
This research project, set in the centre of Wellington, explored the potential for community spaces developed from adaptations of water infrastructure. The project, called Waitoru, used Te Aro as a case study and produced speculative designs as a way of envisioning an innovative and hybridised future. The work shows the potential for underground streams to inspire and aspire to interventions into the fabric of Te Aro to improve water quality, biodiversity and flooding mitigation, provide community space integrated with water infrastructure, and strengthen the potential for self-sufficiency in stresses and shocks.
The project is significant because it demonstrates to territorial authorities how they can effectively connect urban ecologies through water infrastructures and create more amenity and identity in urban public realm. It provides a case study of the issues, methods, guidelines and opportunities for directing policy.
The project is also significant because it demonstrates the potential of the highly graphic language of design, and the potential of interdisciplinary collaborations in the design process. Too often environmental research is hindered by its seemingly incomprehensible complexity: the graphic quality shows how research can be more accessible to the community, and thus facilitate uptake to maximise impact. The inter-disciplinary approach to the project shows the potential for the devolution of autonomous disciplines and the increasing interconnections and interdependencies in engineering, landscape, social and ecological disciplines.