Venice Architecture Biennale 2010 'Now and When Australian Urbanism'


    Brit Andresen and Mara Francis
    The University of Queensland

Sedimentary City1 of Brisbane is layered city-on-city ,
its layers existing in time and in space.
New layers carry the trace of past cities
with catalyst landscape fragments for change.

First City’s2 ancient watershed, floodplain and freshwater
creeks ebb and flow in drought and flood.
Great orchid-laced forests, abundant with food,
grow bowers of shade in subtropical sun.

Each city’s born, collage-layered, opaque,
invisible and overlaid fact on fiction.
Time unfolding dream-cities transformed
to city nightmares burning and flooding.3

Now City’s floodplain is built up and buried
pipe-grids funnel lost creeks underground.
Now steel pylon forests, dense with cables
coiled in tangles, radiate hot light on hard slabs.

Floodplains, now buried and overlaid with knotted
loop-de-loop highways, once held forests.
And swamps to nurse tropical downpours
downriver without breaking the banks.

Fast-forward, in business-as-usual mode,
Now City morphs, layer on layer, as Inferno City,
Emerging in red-rust dust-storms after seasons of drought
to alternate with flash-flooding tempests.

With dust-storm and tempest the land takes its toll,
creeks burst from their pipes upending construction.
In ruins we see what is not the inferno
regaining space for lost floodplains.

Floodplains recover freshwater creeks and new forests
growth stretches long-fingered parklands from river to ridge.
Subtropical City emerges outside the floodplain as rain-roofed,
wind-walled, eucalyptus tectonics,
structures in tune with the nap of the land.

1 Antoine Grumbach, Roma Interrotta, in AD, Profile 20, 1979, v.49, n.3-4.;
2 Peter Myers, “The Third City”, in Architecture Australia, Jan-Feb, 2000.;
3 Italo Calvino, “Invisible Cities”, Vintage, London, 1997 (first published in Italy, 1972)