There has been a lot of chatter in the media about fences and walls. Trump is forging ahead with a physical barrier dividing the US and Mexico. With images of the Berlin Wall being dramatically torn down still in my living memory, it is clear that, “we learn from history that we learn nothing from history.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Back home, in the land of Oz, our beloved non-building, Parliament House, is to have its grassy slopes fenced – all in the name of security. This is an understandable reaction in a world where terrorist attacks are daily news. The architectural community has weighed into the debate and exercised some influence in having the barrier designed to be less visually confronting. Ken Maher, National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, is satisfied that the work will now be, “undertaken in a well-considered manner, and with minimal visual impact”. Importantly the proposal retains public access to the grassed ramps and internally to the base of the flag masts. Hopefully this will go some way to mitigate the otherwise subliminal xenophobic message.
It is not just major civic buildings that are being fenced in. In every suburb and country town our public Schools have been caged to keep the vandals out – and I assume the truants in. As a result, public facilities that should be accessible to the community are promoted, symbolically and visually, as exclusive enclaves.
In our architectural practice, Edmiston Jones GBB look for design solutions that are more holistic than something defined by walls or fences. By designing co-operatively, with those that are ultimately using the proposed facility, we look to a spirit of community to determine appropriate built environment. Guided by a succinct vision for the endeavour, we focus on human activities to determine the essential spaces, internal and external, that are required. And sometimes, the solution may not be a building – and hopefully not a fence!