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Ronnette Riley Architect

This design examines the wider problem of obsolete petrol stations throughout the world by looking at how we can not only address one, but all of them. I believe that a single solution cannot solve the transformation of every gas station throughout the world, because, regardless of how similar the sites are, there is always a nexus of social, political, environmental and other conditions to negotiate. Therefore, my design explores the conversion of a single gas station into a public space as the beginning of a process that would start to inform a framework that leads to the wider redesign of gas stations worldwide.

In this exploration I have chosen to consider the future of the decommissioned gas station found at 230 Riddiford Street, Newtown, Wellington, New Zealand. This station typifies the gas station typology with a large canopy that stands over an expansive forecourt, complimented by a small pavilion. Additionally, like almost all others, this station lies in the center of its community on a main street corner site.

The design has looked at transforming the gas station into a vibrant and dynamic community space in an affordable and realistic fashion. It aims to subvert the role of the architect and their orthodox paternalistic practices by handing the future of these ubiquitous spaces back to their communities. This is because nobody knows a place, its needs, desires and challenges, better than the people who live, work and play in it.

Ultimately, what I have created is an idealistic solution to the Newtown gas station that begins to look at how we, as community members, can convert these spaces, and other vacant spaces, throughout the world. The solution looks to empower the other people of the community to take over their space to make it what they want, how they want, and when they want.

The idea brings together several features to form a community hub, beginning with a workshop. A facility that cannot only be used by locals, but one in which locals can begin to build and populate the rest of the site. In the case of this Newtown gas station, this may be followed by a café, which would begin to generate a source of income for the site, as well as provide an indoor space for locals to gather in. Through the furniture that has been made on site and with other cheap additions, a community garden, barbecue area, basketball court, and green space may eventually follow in a series of small, gentle, and considered sequential maneuvers. Either individually or holistically, these spaces can host any number of activities including, knitting groups, yoga, movies, theaters, fundraisers and even gardening classes.

While the succession of progressions may be optimistic, it advocates for the idea of community-led design to find more fitting and equitable solutions that respond to the social, political, environmental, economic and cultural conditions and changes of the site.

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