Spatial Programme that Shifts the Optical Hierarchy in Auckland's Fort Lane
The simple observation of overhead cameras in Fort Lane led to a design proposal that seeks to balance the asymmetrical eye of power. Ghost Walkway opens a public discourse around the opaque visual hierarchy and envisions more equitable, democratic public spaces.
In the little public alleyway of Fort Lane, there are at least seven security cameras that are identifiable from the ground. We do not know who owns and manages each camera. The majority is barely aware that the street is constantly under probing eyes because there's no sign or formal declaration.
I read this top-to-down gaze from overhead cameras as optical asymmetry. An opaque visual hierarchy where the public becomes the subject to observe, the subject of knowledge. As a response, this design proposal seeks to challenge the existing optical scheme by promoting more reciprocal interactions between optical devices, the observers and people.
Entering the 'monitoring room', the visitors are encircled by hundreds of monitors and glimpse into how the public is observed in the eye of anonymous watchers. The lightwell in the middle is a peephole of both the architectural and the digital. It draws people's eyes upwards making the power of gaze a public good instead of an authoritarian device.
"Where there is power, there is resistance", Foucault says. If the top-to-down gaze of Fort Lane is a power relation, my proposal could be interpreted as resistance. In my position, Ghost Walkway is freedom. A democratic gesture to open a public discourse around the opaque visual hierarchy. It dreams of an urban space with the freedom of shifting, a true public place for people.