Listen - Look up! Listen - Look down! Experiencing the counter-city through a sonic and augmented reality experience of urban undergrounds in southeast Melbourne

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This paper is set in Nairm/Port Phillip Bay (Melbourne, Australia) – specifically in Boon Wurrung Country – across and below the watery landscapes that once characterised the south-eastern shore of Port Phillip Bay. Here, water springs and wetlands were gradually dredged, drained, filled, piped underground, or built over through processes of settler colonial urbanisation. Nevertheless, waters must always flow, and ecologies find remarkable ways to survive, especially underground. This paper discusses how an interactive sound and augmented reality (AR) experience can help us to reconnect histories of water, soils, and non-humans that inhabit the underground pipes and other water infrastructures in the urban. The paper uses as a case study The Rippon Lea Estate, a colonial house and pleasure gardens currently managed by the National Trust Australia, to explore the hidden and underground water narratives and materialities that underpin it. Through our collaborative project between the Trust, Universities and the Boon Wurrung Foundation, we have grappled with the question of how to invite visitors to Rippon Lea to engage ethically and care-fully with undergrounds, groundwaters and the histories they represent. This paper shares this counter-experience, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the layers of storytelling, materiality and the beings that traverse these realms.

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This publication may be available as open access



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Funding Sponsor

National Trust for Historic Preservation



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