Sense of place is something that was talked about a lot when I worked for the state government environment agency working with landscape architects. The designs were in National Parks yet had to serve visitors. Roads were needed, gravel at first and then sealed. Car parks were required first where the original 4x4 tracks ended and then moved away from the features to achieve a sense of arrival. Yet people protested about having to walk, yes in a National Park. Yet, National Parks can be vast and the areas that visitors go to tend to be very small. If a road and car park is built and paths made, toilets created and interpretation written, visitors will generally stay in these defined areas. Development can be achieved in a way that respects the past, the features and fits in with the environment.
Here are a couple of case studies that I was involved in. At The Granite Skywalk in Porongurup National Park, I was involved in producing short films on the construction and the visitor experience. It could be debated that having a structure attached to a rock in a national park that has been there for millions of years is not ideal, but if development does take place then providing a visitor experience with a defined path preserves the rest of the national park.
The other project was at The Gap in Torndirrup National Park where I was working with landscape architects and structural and geotechnical engineers. The original concept was to keep the profile of the lookout low in the landscape which required the cutting and extraction of many tons of granite, which as you know if very very hard. The Gap is located at a vertical granite cliff edge where you can get very large swells (8m+). Due to potential geotechnical issues and dangers with the rock extraction so close to the cliff edge the original concept was revised. The new concept sat on top of the rock and whilst it would be more visible, the benefits were that there was much less rock extraction required and therefore the impact to the site was reduced. The concrete paths that were already there were upgraded and new paths were raised above the surface, again reducing the impact to the environment.
The first short film I produced is an introduction both to the project and shows my growing interest in filmmaking. The second short film I produced is a good example of how concept drawings, produced by others, can be made into a short film using simple techniques of zooming, panning, still photos, on-site video, music and titles to produce a more engaging explanation of a design rather than just drawings on a piece of paper.
Do you think these designs achieve a sense of place?