Strange Relations: A design inquiry into infrastructure as topological place
Douglas, Carl Weston
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Infrastructures multiply our connections, mediate our lives, and amplify the range of our effects. To the extent that these bi-directional effects are remote or asynchronous, experienced partially, indirectly, or not at all, I term them strange relations. Infrastructure can be interpreted as both corrosive to public space and constitutive of it. We are involved in broad and changing senses of the public. What is a designer to make of this context? Strange relations are a crucial indicator of tensions between the discontinuous, distributed, and networked locales of infrastructure, and design strategies that reflect a Cartesian-Newtonian model of space and isolate form and perceptual effects. How can the strange relations mediated by infrastructure be drawn into projections of public place? In this practice-led inquiry, I frame infrastructure using topological theories of place, and demonstrate strategies for projecting infrastructural place. My aim is to provide concepts, strategies, and exemplars as a foundation for new hypotheses, to further a line of experimental practice. The research is structured around three project cycles, each culminating in a design proposal for Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland's Māngere Inlet, an arm of the Manukau harbour ringed, reshaped, and adversely affected by infrastructures. These proposals, to be exhibited in February, 2018, exemplify a set of relational strategies intended to extend designers' repertoires by re-situating experience, meaning and aesthetic value in a broader field.