Peter Charles

Porosity strategies for dynamic alternatives to dense development ambitions.

PhD candidate

  • Peter Charles


Responding to the complex fragmented and dispersed conditions prevalent in contemporary cities, identified by Edward Soja and others, this study explores porosity as a mechanism to reform urban morphologies and facilitate dynamic activities and growth. Porous space is neither simply “open space” nor “other” or “negative” space, but vital components for robust urban morphologies. Porous space accommodates flexible activities, provides connective tissue, maintains a diversity of space types and can help negotiate uncertainty. More than reclaimed vacant pockets, this study is concerned with assemblages of porous spaces acting as structuring armatures in new morphologies. Investigations seek to coordinate and internetwork porous spaces as components within a system and a field of relations. Creating a three-dimensional networks of porous spaces provides alternative models to prevalent development and zoning approaches, broadening understanding of density, intensification and the resilience of urban environments. Digital simulations and the future development of Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend site provide methods and contexts to explore the potentials of porosity.

The study of porosity operates within the context of Melbourne’s development plans and broad intellectual contexts. Explorations build on OMA’s work with large public infrastructural void armatures, but look at multiple smaller connected voids as dispersed and differentiated fields of within dense environments. The study expands Stan Allen’s notion of field conditions to reposition standard solid/void understanding as an inter-relational symbiotic porous field, wherein porous components are dynamic, flexible, able to negotiate thresholds such as private/public, interior/exterior and generate new morphological configurations. Investigations draw from the dynamic fields of Metabolism and Mat buildings advancing the systemisation of urban growth through flexible architectural strategies that embrace change. Studies are also influenced by Landscape Urbanism efforts to organize performance and flows of urban systems. Exemplary projects and discourses inform speculative scenarios for Fishermans Bend that demonstrate the applications and implications of porosity.

Fishermans Bend exemplifies the city’s growth ambitions and is a complex post-industrial physical context that provides a rich test site for a series of experiments investigating porosity strategies of subdivision and aggregation. Project experiments reveal roles for porosity at various scales, morphological variations and the integrative potentials of porous configurations. Project(ed) scenarios calibrated to Fishermans Bend offer porous systems and strategies applicable to global translation.