Three thousand years ago, humanity began extracting fossil fuels from the earth to burn; this kick-started civilisation. Three hundred years ago, engineering perfected the burning of fossil fuels to create power; this kick started the industrial revolution. Thirty years ago, the pace and scale of fossil-fuel extraction increased exponentially, driven by global demand; this kicked the planet squarely into the Anthropocene, a geological age in which humans create the dominant impacts on the planet. Now, the fossil-fuel era is beginning its long decline.
In the Hunter Valley, one of the country’s most fertile agricultural areas, the legacy of fossil fuels consists of hundreds of square kilometres of vast excavations for coal mining, which a collapsing industry will be unable to remediate. Also left behind will be a huge network of infrastructure, including rail lines, power lines, reservoirs and the machinery of extraction itself. Finally, the demise of the coal industry leaves eviscerated communities, full of unemployed but highly skilled workers.
This studio provided a means of inquiry into how these systemic changes and environmental and social opportunities could be brought together to regenerate a landscape and a region, speculating on new modes of urbanism and new industries for the future. Central to each student’s investigation was a proposition for renewable energy production; strategies of adaptation and intervention; transport and connectivity issues; and the re-establishment of unexpected yet productive operations, activities and social enterprises within uninhabitable wastelands.