Yesterday, the Enabling Suburbs team – architect Jason Haigh, planner Ben Iser, my partner John and I – undertook a local walk with artist Mandy Ridley. Mandy is working on a public artwork that is part of a new stretch of cycleway running along and across Cabbage Tree Creek. As we knew Mandy through a long association, including the recent Ernest Street Tunnel Public Art Project, we offered to work with her to develop a more nuanced understanding of the community and locality before other community engagement processes were implemented.
We walked along the creekside pathways from the Aspley Rotary Park to the Brisbane Mud Springs then to the Allen Guy Walkway. It was a valuable experiment and, while not formally a walkshop, provided a platform for improvised and reflective explorations of the area to support Mandy’s inquiry about the place. As a group of built environment practitioners, our attention was drawn to the tensions between the ‘natural’ and the ‘built’, prompting us to question the legitimacy of that divide in urban environments, especially when there are far greater tensions and fragmentations at times between the built elements of an area.
After our walk, over a cup of tea in the picnic shed, we discussed some questions about the relationships between spaces and communities – the informality brings out other strands of conversation and connection, including the connective possibilities of broadband (where urban form fails) and our involvement with the Long Time, No See? project. With the anomalie of the mud springs, we reflected on the locality’s volcanic and geological past, noting also the overlays of the Indigenous, industrial and agricultural history of the area – part speculation, part oral record and part written.
Enabling Suburbs is a side project that we are undertaking with other built environment practitioners who live in our locality. We are endeavouring to develop this as a platform for positive local engagement, research and innovation. To date, we have participated in and supported a number of local conversations – including Active Aspley, Long Time, No See? and Connecting Aspley – as well as developed propositions and research that enables sustainable local development. It also extends the work I am doing for my Australia Council funded project Fieldworking, for which I have indentified several routes in the city, including the path walked yesterday, where I am taking a panoramic view to investigate and write about public art and its relationship to urban spaces.
Thanks to Mandy for inviting us to be part of this project and responding so positively to the suggestion of local walk.