Informalising Footscray

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Colour, Students, Texture

Informalising Footscray

Tahj Rosmarin and James Connor


The thesis aims at investigating the interstices and overlaps between formal and informal urbanism. Historically, research into this field has typically been concerned with the ‘upgrading’ or ‘improving’ of the informal. This thesis provides a counterpoint outlook to this paradigm- rather, it’s aim is to investigate the vast architectural potential that the informal has in assisting and contributing to existing formal frameworks. Through research into the topic of urban informality, it has become clear that many aspects of informality provide viable and innovative solutions in dealing with complex architectural problems. The thesis raises questions such as; what can the formal city learn from the informal? Are there aspects of informality which provide superior alternatives to the way we create architecture and cities? How can these aspects of informality be introduced and embedded into an existing Australian architectural and urban context? The thesis is framed as a response to the top-down planning policies which are guiding the development of many Australian cities. Through presenting the inherent value of community and the right of the individual, the proposed design acts as an alternative method for dealing with urban renewal- using the Melbourne suburb of Footscray as a case study. An informal infrastructural system aims to give the communities who have directly contributed to the suburb’s vitality, the tools to continue to contribute towards the development of their suburb.



Who influences you graphically?

Our graphic styles have been influenced by our interest in depicting urban environments, rather than portraying buildings as individual objects removed from their contexts. We are influenced by the axonometrics of Li Han and Atelier Bow Wow which effectively communicate complicated urban settings in their work. We were also very inspired by the cartoon illustrations of Herge (Tintin) and Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) which so effectively depict context and space. The work of painters like Rene Magritte and David Hockney have also influenced our use of texture and colour.

How does the graphic language of your proposal relate to the thesis argument?

We attempted to create a graphic which portrays the proposal’s focus upon an architecture of interaction and relationships. We purposefully avoided using hero images which depict the buildings as static objects- but rather, we have depicted them as backdrops to intense social and cultural scenes. Each image depicts a snapshot of possibility- they are intended to be read like a cartoon-strip which come together to form a narrative for the suburb.

The use of a square canvas, alongside the flatness of the graphic language allowed for each drawing to read as a composition- with each image carefully considering its use of foreground and background, its use of colour and the types of characters which appear in it. We wanted each drawing to appear like we had painted it- with a very purposeful composition of elements.

What is the effect and purpose of the texture used?

We used texture to enhance the painterly qualities of the drawing. Through adding a textured filter, the elements of the drawing instantly become flattened and they can be read as a single image. Texture added a level of depth to the drawings. It changed them from being simple illustrations into postcard paintings.

What defined the use of a rich coloured palette?

The site location of the design proposal (Footscray in Melbourne, Victoria) is an intensely multi-cultural and socially rich place. It is full of signs written in different languages, coloured shopfronts and intense aromas. We wanted to try and capture some of the unique elements of urban character of the suburb in our drawings. We spent a lot of time making sure all of the signs and storefronts were accurate and correct- they are all based on what currently exists in the suburb. We used lightened pastel colours to make sure that, when combined, the images didn’t become too vibrant or too intensive to read collectively.


How and to what extent can this approach be applied to a variety of urban situations outside Australia?

As the design approach has a focus upon spatial agency and the individual’s right to the city, it is an approach which is applicable to many different urban environments around the world. The crux of the design takes lessons from informal urbanism- encouraging individual appropriation and adaptation. The design simply acts as framework which allows for things to happen around it and to it- it’s measure of success is based on how it succesfully it has been appropriated, morphed and adapted to suit the user’s individual needs. It is an alternative approach to conceiving of architecture which is not limited to one particular site or context.

How would the use of diagrams help in revealing this systematic thesis?

Diagrams help explaining the different, multi-scalar components of this thesis. We completed a series of diagrams which explain how this informal infrastructure is composed- demonstrating how hybrid-typologies may be generated through informal usage over time. The complexities of informal urbanism can often be explained through the use of clear diagrams.



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