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Porosity: the Revision of Public Space

Porosity: the Revision of Public Space

Richard Goodwin’s Porosity tests the functional boundaries ascribed to the physical dimensions of public space in the city. It envisions new possibilities for urban metamorphosis derived from an understanding of social dimensions of built forms. The project aimed to do this by pairing public art with a methodology of comprehensive mapping examining both internal and external spaces in Sydney. The project’s experiments involved the uninvited entry of Porosity researchers into three architectural zones including 345-363 George Street, World Square, and Aurora Place, Governor Phillip and Macquarie Towers.

A series of performative experiments were conducted on the urban fabric of corporate-private architecture in which researchers entered foyers, lift-shafts and hallways, staying as long as possible without intruding on occupants and attempting to remain unnoticed by security. Over a period of three years, these researchers documented their discoveries of chiastic spaces, including information regarding population, movement and architectural materiality in places where a combination of public and private modes of interaction take place. This data was collated to produce a Porosity index for spaces and buildings. The index compares the degree of “publicness” within the traditionally private boundary of the architectural skin.

Porosity's methodology was based on the premise that an individual engaged in meaningful action can interrogate and provoke changes in the urban fabric. The investigators were akin to tourists, blundering into the unknown to search for and discover spaces that the everyday occupant might never "see". The result was the (re)discovery of a series of deactivated and ignored urban spaces beyond streets and parks and reclaimed them as public through the assertion of physical momentary possession. The maps and models produced in the documentation of these performative tests became the basis for a method of projecting future metamorphosis of the contemporary city. This research has formed the basis for a series of other projects, research developments and artworks, including Real Time Porosity and Porosity Games.

The Porosity project was realised with the aid of an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP0346062)

Project date

2003 to 2005

Funding type

ARC Discovery Project


Richard Goodwin
Tia Chim
Nadia Wagner
Sarah Jamison
Rob Besson

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