Government remediation of NZ’s “most contaminated site”, a fertilizer-plant in the small town of Mapua, left the site bare, emotionally scarred, and fiscally under-resourced. Twenty years later science found a way to remediate the ground by sieving the soil and providing a cap of clean fill. Yet despite remediation, the site remained unoccupied: even planting trees is problematic when digging deeper than a spade depth calls for protective suits.
There was nothing to say the ground is fixed, nothing for the community to reoccupy, no invitation. While the soil was remediated, the site most certainly wasn’t.
Funding to upgrade Mapua’s services questioned how architecture might start offsite and extend into the site to form a park. Our idea being to form an initial invitation to the community through pathways, shelters and amenities created as part of the services upgrade, but also provide provision for the community to grow the park after the engineers and their protective suits have gone home. Architecture to house services, but invite inhabitation.
The park becomes a kit of parts to initiate change, each referencing the typology of the surrounding horticulture buildings: fencing enclose services but unclose entry, hatches access tanks but extend to pathway, slabs cap pipes but rise to seating, roofing covers plant but uncovers shelter, blocks key in services and provide keystones for future building without excavation.
Mapua Park isn’t about finishing, infact it may never be finished, for contaminated sites are never fully remediated by science. It re-opens the remediation process and provides structures to recycle the site back to its community. The park now has a range of shelters and amenities constructed off the structural provisions provided as part of the services upgrade, still mostly by us, but increasingly by the community themselves.