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Finding Perth in its Public Rooms

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Hannah Gosling
Curtin University Perth Australia
An understanding of Perth's cultural identity cannot be embodied in one place in the public realm, but is to be found in the network of public rooms across the city. I define a public room to be a threshold space (a foyer, court, anteroom) between the public exterior and a private or privileged interior. My suspicion is that the public room often borrows from cultural precedents, making spatial and linguistic reference to understood conventions of form. I set about constructing a catalogue of local precedent and international reference as well as maps in which the city can be read.

It has become evident that as a capital city in a relatively young and largely immigrant country, Perth has borrowed closely from other cultures and this is expressed in its public buildings through the use of style as reference. I believe that as designers, our contemporary contributions to the public realm need to acknowledge immigration and the influence of other cultures, but also acknowledge local precedent and the uniqueness of topography, climate and site that define a place, in order to participate in the development of Perth’s own cultural identity.

By performing a comparative analysis of Perth’s public rooms, I have distilled some of the ingredients and concerns that should be considered when designing public spaces for the city, which themselves should not be instructive but open to reading and reinterpretation. To demonstrate this, I have tested these ingredients in design propositions or 'writings' for the city of Perth. The four sites chosen are significant points of tension between topography and the city grid, peculiarities that are innately of Perth. The propositions themselves create temporary additions to the public realm from which we can look back at the city we inhabit.

This method could also be extended in use to other Australian cities or places with a large immigrant population, to better understand their public realms, and to understand some of the layers of meaning held in their public rooms.

Hannah Gosling

Beth George
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