Speculative Architectural Project
As the matriarch of a migrant family from China to settle in New Zealand, my grandmother was a part of a diasporic movement that both sought to create an authentic sense of belonging in a place away from one’s birth land but also carried with them memories which provided deep ties to their ancestral roots.
Through a series of ritual spaces embedded into the Lower Nihotupu Spillway in the Waitakere Ranges of Auckland, New Zealand, this project is dedicated to my grandmother's passing earlier this year in Auckland, a home away from her ancestral home, proposing a "Repository of Memories" that not only memorializes a migrant's new roots created here in New Zealand, but also diaspora’s performative dimension for a posthumous repatriation of memories back to an ancestral home.
The monumentality of the spillway and the cascading flow of water are powerful mythmakers, yet they are paradoxically captured in the architecture in the form of nothingness. Instead, the earth and river that the spillway displaces are transformed – the velocity of the flowing water is accelerated and the solidity of the land is monumentalised in concrete – leaving behind a negative void that contains the elemental factors of both, existing in concert albeit shedding their original characteristics.
Contained in between these edges exists the seemingly antithetical worlds of place and mobility, presence and absence, in which the body of water as a fluidity is necessary to construct the fixity of its concrete container, its ‘other’ as bounded, rooted and a site of attachment.
"The ritual concludes as the families crosses over into the heart of the spillway through a narrow vertical recess
that rises to the height of the dam wall. The size of a single, absent, burial niche, it becomes the entry onto a
small wooden overhang that extends out into the spillway just enough for Participants to stand
fully immersed in the roaring torrents of a mobile water-scape.
The families, who now are standing in a precarious balance between the solidity of the dam and the fluidity
of water that it is holding back, completely inhabit both place and mobility - a duality of qualities that define
the diasporic condition, and in a cathartic gesture, cast the ashes of the migrant into the water that will
carry the spirit of the migrant and its fragmented memories back to its spiritual home."
I perpetually inhabit a world torn between place and mobility, and whilst I can try to contest this reality by insisting on the value and authenticity of place, I exist rooted in both the physical locality of New Zealand where I will begin to practice as a designer, and in a place within my memory where I will always remain the inhabitant.
As such, I must celebrate a world in motion and refuse to embrace either of these easy extremes.
Link to full project here
Master of Architecture (Professional)
The University of Auckland