The Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Zaha Hadid just released images of her latest design — three matching towers for Brisbane's waterfront — and they look nothing short of alien. Which feels oddly appropriate, since the skyscrapers are also supposed to sit on potentially radioactive land.
Hadid's so-called Toowong development, a complex with 486 apartments and eight villas, is indeed planned to be built on contaminated land. The land's former tenant, an affiliate of Australia's ABC Radio network, vacated the land back in 2006 after concerns over radiation linked it to several cases of cancer. As the Brisbane Times reported in 2008, "The site housed a uranium processing plant between 1911 and 1916, which produced products used to paint luminous clocks, watches and instrument dials." That would do it.
While some tests revealed that the levels of radiation are safe, people tend to shy away from uranium-drenched soil. University of Queensland associate professor Clive Warren told the Brisbane Times that the land was "blighted" back in 2010. "It's going to be a long time before people are willing to live there I'd imagine.''
But who knows! Maybe Hadid's mega stardom and eye-catching designs can woo some 500 would be tenants to move into the towers. They look like soda bottles with their caps stuck into the ground. Heck, maybe the smaller footprint means less exposure to the decaying uranium in the soil and, hence, less of a human risk.
But risks — and radical architecture — are Hadid's thing. And if tests prove that the ground is safe, these towers would be one hell of a way to bring people back to the neighbourhood. [Dezeen, Brisbane Times]