Counterfactual City, Naarm, 2020-2021

CATEGORY: Exhibition
CONTRIBUTOR: Anna Jankovic
COLLABORATORS: Graham Crist, Helen Duong, John Doyle, Mark Jacques, Emma Jackson, Vicky Lam, Ben Milbourne, Paul Minifie, Ian Nazareth and Katrina Simon.

Part of the NGV Melbourne Design Week 2020 and 2021 program of events. Supported by the School of Architecture and Urban Design RMIT and The Capitol, RMIT. Graphic Design by Letterbox.

WHAT IF we have to re-use all buildings rather than demolish?

In our city’s recent history, and still today, building development follows a pattern of relentless demolition and building anew. This paradigm is commonly acknowledged as being part of ‘progress’ for the modern city; that destruction and waste are somehow the necessary precursors to construction and continual growth.

This prevailing model of development however, contributes to a vast amount of building waste and the embodied emissions produced by the construction sector; that make up 25% of Australia’s total carbon emissions annually. The industry as a whole (I include architects here) has, till recently, paid little attention to the urgent concerns of environmental sustainability. Nor in Australia, have we seen the significant changes required to begin to meet a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 (or earlier), as other signatories of the Paris Agreement have already committed to.

Aside from waste, the consumption of natural resources that go into the manufacture of building materials are quickly becoming scarce; sourced with ever greater economic, social and environmental costs. Sand is the second most consumed natural resource (after water), and worldwide demand for it is still increasing, for use as aggregate in concrete.

WHAT IF we placed greater value on the bildings we have? Would we care for them more and would they serve us longer (despite their eventual decay)? WHAT IF we reduce, reuse and recycle the buildings that we construct? WHAT IF we retain and build upon the embodied energy (carbon) within our existing built environment? WHAT IF this also allows us to better value our cultural and built heritage? What architecture will future generations inherit from us?