Maps are a two dimensional record of spatial form, but are also capable of carrying and communicating messages about the culture, history and features of a community.
The spatial framework of a town is set down over generations by the actions of individuals, organisations and governments. This particular town has a legacy of major infrastructure projects; a former state highway and rail line slice through the town; leaving it divided into a series of poorly connected quadrants. The township fabric has been torn irreperably. Views through the town are truncated by embankments making it difficult for people to mentally map the town in their head.
The closures of roads and paths to create these corridors reduce the permeability of the town for both drivers and pedestrians, and lead to an illogical and confused pattern of connections.
Both the rail line and highway are designed for speed; they run in broad sweeping curves, at odds with the finer grain of a small town. While the rail line is a major statewide route, the highway has now been superceded by a freeway built nearby within its own expansive and fenced exclusion corridor.
It seems unfair to me that the projects of statewide interest are imposed upon communities, and then when the infrastructure is redundant, little effort is made to reduce their physical impact and repair the landscape.
In a community planning process facilitated by the local shire, the members of this town have identified this as a critical issue for the future of the town. Tellingly, the other critical issue was to provide better wayfinding and signage.
I am certain that this is not an isolated situation, and that all over Australia individual communities are grappling with how best to manage the physical environment they have inherited.
In the mining industry, much attention is now paid to planning the post-production period of a mining landscape, from both an environmental and cultural perspective. Mining companies are forced to consider and mitigate the long term impacts of their activities.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if these standards also applied to state-managed infrastructure projects?
As well as consulting communities in the planning phases of a project, perhaps funds should be set aside to restore these assets to the community in a useful manner if or when they are no longer required?