World Landscape Architecture - landscape architecture webzine 2014-11-19T19:38:03Z WordPress Damian Holmes <![CDATA[VIDEO | Christophe Girot, `Topology: On Sensing and Conceiving Landscape`]]> 2014-11-19T14:53:02Z 2014-11-19T19:38:03Z ]]>
Harvard GSD recently posted a lecture by Christophe Girot titled “Topology: On Sensing and Conceiving Landscape”. An lecture that will intrigue students and professionals interested in Visualisation and Computer Modelling. Girot shows various projects, processes and the tools (Terrestial Laser Scanners, Point Cloud, Rhino, GIS, etc) used to create models of existing and proposed landscapes around the world.

The invention of landscape has always oscillated between a history of beliefs in nature, with its many representations, and a history of terrain measurements through various techniques of appropriation. In his talk, Christophe Girot will consider the longstanding balance between culture and its instruments for sensing and conceiving a landscape, noting that the particular representation of landscape that we hold true today has roots in the dialogue between ars and techne that has characterized every epoch. The aim of this talk and discussion is to open a window on topology’s shifting point of view with regard to this form of interdependence that will considerably affect our ability to act and perform effectively on landscape’s reality.

Video Credit | Harvard GSD

Damian Holmes <![CDATA[Colwell Shelor+ West 8+ Weddle Gilmore selected for Mesa City Center]]> 2014-11-19T14:08:33Z 2014-11-19T14:06:09Z ]]> Winter-water-feature_courtesy-of-Colwell-Shelor-+-West-8-+-Weddle-Gilmore_LR

Colwell Shelor+ West 8+ Weddle Gilmore has been selected to lead the design process to transform 19 acres surrounding Mesa’s City Hall into a one of a kind civic space which will capture and enhance the urbanizing momentum of Mesa’s downtown core. The team was unanimously selected by the City of Mesa over finalists Woods Bagot+ Surface Design and Otak+ Mayer Reed.



“The very public nature of the design competition culminated in three inspiring designs based on robust public interest participation,” stated Jeff McVay, the Project Manager for Mesa’s Department for Development and Sustainability. “The City’s ambition is to create a signature urban space from which Mesa residents, visitors, and businesses can identify with, an identity that both respects the past and positions downtown Mesa for the future. With the selection of Colwell Shelor + West 8 + Weddle Gilmore as the winner of the design competition, the City and public will have a capable and proven partner for completing the next phase in the City Center design process.”


Conceived as a “town square with a twist,” Colwell Shelor+ West 8+ Weddle Gilmore’s design makes the City Center more than just an event space. It is the City’s ‘green heart’ and a catalyst for the next 100 years of urban growth in downtown Mesa. The design is characterized by generous spaces for flexible uses, inviting landscapes celebrating the Sonoran desert, and ground floor uses with public oriented programs that draw people into and through Mesa City Center to Main Street, the Arts Center, Convention Center and residential neighborhoods.


The Events Plaza is the central gathering space of the design. The centerpiece and icon of the project is a stunning Arizona copper shade structure, encompassing a passive evaporative cooling tower. A state-of-the-art water feature celebrates both the preciousness and playfulness of water, transforming into an ice skating rink during the winter. The Upper Terrace has a more relaxed atmosphere, with pockets of Sonoran Desert themed gardens and small-scale plazas for food markets, small concerts and art shows. The Leisure Promenade is a linear path that ties the Upper Terrace and Events Plaza park spaces together with seating and trees, so that visitors can hang out and watch the action. The design repurposes and renews existing buildings on site to retain a critical mass of users and to create a focal point from which new development will grow outside of the project boundaries. Repurposed buildings will house new food and drink venues at the ground floors, with terraces that engage the public realm areas. City Hall will be re-skinned with vertical fins to transform the building architecturally and improve its energy performance.


Colwell Shelor+ West 8+ Weddle Gilmore team’s City Center design combines the City’s and community’s desires for a venue for its major events and festivals; a shady, green welcoming setting and an iconic, world-class space announcing Mesa as a leading city for innovation, arts, business and community. The winning team’s design for Mesa City Center is a destination that will be a lively downtown hub and an inviting public place during all seasons and times of day.


Design Team |

Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture

West 8

Weddle Gilmore

Consultants | Dibble Engineering, Pfocus, HR&A, ETM Associates, Rider Levett Bucknall, Pentagram, Fluidity, schlaich bergermann and partner lp

Images Courtesy of  Colwell Shelor Landscape ArchitectureWest 8Weddle Gilmore

Text | Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture

Damian Holmes <![CDATA[The presence of absence in the public park of De Panne]]> 2014-11-17T14:49:14Z 2014-11-17T14:40:24Z ]]> CVC_130801125258
De Panne is a small town situated at the west end of the Belgian coast on the border with France. For many centuries it was nothing more than a fishing village, but with the romantic revolution of the mid-19th century, the town began attracting aristocratic and bourgeois tourists.


With the increasing importance of leisure activities and ideas of general well-being, the “le nouvelle riche” began exploring remote and picturesque locations, searching for fresh air and a healthy lifestyle while leaving behind the grit and grime of industrialised cities. De Panne thus gained popularity, becoming a second home for many celebrities of the time, including Belgium’s King Albert I.

The time of the Belle Epoque has now long ended taking with it most of De Panne’s charm and the once chic coastal town gradually turned into a dull extension of the urbanised Belgian Riviera. Developments on the coastal landscape during the 20th century were too drastic and it became clear that at that rate, the town would never regain its former splendour.



An ambitious regeneration plan was thus put into action by the local municipality seeking to blow new life into De Panne. Part of this plan was to regenerate the late 19th century Dumont Neighbourhood, named after the Belgian architect Albert Dumont, which was in 1995 classified as a protected urban landscape by the Flemish Heritage Commission as it showcases a rural interpretation of the Garden City concept. The entire quarter consisted of dozens of scattered eclectic villas across the sand dunes, forming a surreal landscape.


Among the villas, at the top of a tall dune stood Villa Star which was previously owned by a friend of King Leopold II, professor Jules Thiriar. Following his death, the villa fell into ruin and in 1959 the land and the villa’s remains were turned into a public park. Deteriorating through time, the area became an eyesore, prompting the local council to initiate the regeneration plan.


OMGEVING was selected to prepare the regeneration plan and eventually was commissioned to give a new form to the park surrounding the ruins of Villa Star. Acknowledging the site’s history and the traces of its past, the question was raised whether to restore the old villa or to accept the changes and strive for something new. This inherently perplexing question became the inspiration for the project. By rejecting a plain reconstruction of the villa, and instead focusing on working with what’s left, a new and contradictory form of presence was born. A purposeless pile of bricks, now wrapped in a veil of oxidised steel, on the one hand portrayed a new presence while on the other hand reinforced the absence of the old villa.

The project aims to explore the ambiguities of being and space. It examines how our expectations towards a place, while confronted by design, can diffuse our understanding and consequently evoke a genuine feeling of true absence.



Commission | The Public Park, De Panne, Belgium
Team | Koen Moelants, Luc Wallays, Peter Seynaeve, Peter Swyngedauw
Project Leader | Peter Swyngedauw
Photos | Christophe van Cauteren
Text | Karol Grygolec

Damian Holmes <![CDATA[Kai Tak Fantasy Competition Winner announced]]> 2014-11-16T06:26:02Z 2014-11-16T06:20:30Z ]]> Kai Tak Fantasy Competition Winner Healthy Lift Off 1

Mr. Paul Chan, Secretary for Development and Head Juror of the Kai Tak Fantasy International Ideas Competition, announced the results at the Award Ceremony on 14 November 2014. Upon the thorough consideration by the Jury Panel during the final adjudication, Entry C Kai Tak 2.0: Healthy Lift Off (啟德 2.0: 健康啟航) was selected as the winning entry.

“We propose a new healthy development strategy that benefits Hong Kong, creates balanced socio-economic systems, and improves our natural ecologies of landscape, water, and habitats. The scheme promotes a new urban model that incorporates the global within the local, nature within the urban, and the social within our economy.” Kai Tak 2.0: Healthy Lift Off (啟德 2.0: 健康啟航) Team
Kai Tak Fantasy Competition Winner Healthy Lift Off 2

Kai Tak Fantasy Competition Winner Healthy Lift Off 3

Kai Tak will ‘lift off’ once again with new urban and social vigor to become a global brand, with local/global cultures and ecological sensitivities. The identity of Kai Tak Healthy City and its new development eco-event-islands (one main island and archipelago of 20) will become a symbol of active and healthy events 24/7 and 365 days a year. With the onging urban regeneration of East Kowloon and massive
influx of tourists to Hong Kong, the upcoming challenges to infrastructure, venue capacities, environmental impact and social integration can be surmounted by a healthy development approach – one that is inclusive, diverse, flexible, people-friendly, creative and ecological – thereby creating an urban environment for a healthier, happier, innovative, integrated and prosperous community in Hong Kong.Kai Tak Healthy City will complement other large waterfront development initiatives, such as West Kowloon Cultural District and Central Waterfront Park – to enhance Hong Kong harbourfront reputation as a world-class destination and key to Hong Kong’s brand equity, Victoria Harbor being its most valuable natural asset.

Landscape Masterplan
Green-Blue infrastructure systems both on land and water underpin our Masterplan. A landscape loop frames the waterfront accessible 24/7
with floating islands, wetlands, boardwalks and parks.

Kai Tak Fantasy Competition Winner Healthy Lift Off 4

Kai Tak 2.0: Healthy Lift Off (啟德 2.0: 健康啟航) Team |

  • Md Masudul Islam (Team Leader)
  • Chen Ziyi
  • Li Jiayi
  • Li Ling Pei
  • Natalia Echeverri
  • Wang Yali
  • Wu Yi Fei

Jury Report on Entry C

“The Jury Panel is impressed by this innovative and attractive scheme with a green and sustainable concept that send out a clear message to the public. The natural treatment of the water edge is particularly encouraging. The Jury Panel agrees that this is the only entry that has consider keeping the water clean by tidal flushing action, possibly making the apparently otherwise largely dead water body alive and

The Entry is successful in creating a unique place with a big idea. Among all entries, it fares the best in branding Kai Tak Fantasy, creating an identity in place making and synergising with the neighbourhood.
The scheme has translated the Healthy City concept in full by creating venues, like new channel, curvilinear shoreline seamlessly integrated into the land for uses for health, culture, education and commercial. The Jury Panel opines that while West Kowloon is cultural, the scheme has given Kai Tak a potential to become a water sports centre because of its interesting shoreline. As a result, the West and East Kowloon will become two very unique new life style for people in Hong Kong.

The Jury Panel further opines that, certain improvements still need to be made when this entry is further developed. These shall include developing a controlled water body for water sports, improving the architecture design and creating a bicycle friendly place. Further, there shall be more integration between the building proposed and the green open space created.”

Images | Kai Tak 2.0: Healthy Lift Off (啟德 2.0: 健康啟航) Team
Text | Kai Tak 2.0: Healthy Lift Off (啟德 2.0: 健康啟航) Team and

Damian Holmes <![CDATA[The Don Valley Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck | Toronto, Canada | The Planning Partnership]]> 2014-11-16T06:43:14Z 2014-11-13T13:23:44Z ]]> Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-10

In 2011 a large storm water outlet and chamber was installed at the southwest trailhead in the Don Valley Brickworks; which created an unwelcoming presence at one of the most used entrances into the Quarry Gardens. The Planning Partnership was retained to design a gateway feature that would camouflage the storm water outlet and chamber, provide a comfortable seating area and act as destination. The resulting  observation deck seamlessly hides the storm water outlet and chamber and establishes a welcoming entrance for visitors.

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The Don Valley Brick Works is one of the Toronto’s most valued natural environment parks.  The successful transformation of this former quarry site into a recreation amenity over two decades is the result of strong collaboration between government stakeholders and local citizens groups.  Members of The Planning Partnership have been involved with this initiative for over two decades; through built projects, plans and studies that have helped shaped the Brick Works into the landmark it is today. Sponsored by the Weston Foundation, the observation deck is the most recent intervention in the park by The Planning Partnership and is the main gateway to the Quarry Gardens.   The deck responds to grade challenges on the adjacent trails and staircases through a series of ramps, seating walls and steps.   The front elevation of the deck welcomes visitors with two steps that are flanked by a flamed finish charcoal granite wall engraved with “Weston Family Quarry Garden.” The granite wall hides the elevation difference between the pond edge and top of storm water chamber.

Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-7
Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-6

The surface of the deck is a combination of IPE wood and a steel grating that creates a variety of interesting seating areas. The large sunlit seating area on the wood deck accommodates several bright red Muskoka chairs that are heavily used for picnics, reading and quiet reflection in the natural environment. Two shade trees are inset in the wood decking to provide dappled shade for users sitting on the large limestone benches. The limestone benches frame the change of surface materials and are a common seating element in the park. The steel grate area of the deck cantilevers over the quarry pond, allowing users to look below their feet at the fluctuating pond edge, lilly pads, resident turtles and a mix of white and dark grey river stones.   The cantilevered area of the deck provides dramatic views of the quarry gardens and historic industrial brick buildings.

Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-4

Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-2

Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-3

Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-8

Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck-Planning Partnership-9

The observation deck is a wonderful addition to the park and is both a popular space for outdoor classrooms, summer camp programs a space for quiet reflection.

The Don Valley Brickworks Quarry Garden Observation Deck
Toronto, ON, Canada

Design Firm | The Planning Partnership, Designer David Leinster and Tonya Crawford
Consultants | Quinn Dressel (structural), City of Toronto (Client), Hobden Construction (contractor)

Image Credits | The Planning Partnership
Text Credit | The Planning Partnership


Damian Holmes <![CDATA[Dinton Pastures Nature Play Space | Wokingham, UK | Davies White Landscape Architects]]> 2014-11-12T13:03:18Z 2014-11-12T13:03:18Z ]]> Dinton-Nature-Play-Space-0
Giant nest towers, wigwams, monkey ropes, funnel trap nests, secret hobbit holes and giant swinging and climbing logs are some of the exciting new play features included in Davies White Landscape Architects latest destination nature play space at Dinton Pastures Country Park near Wokingham.

Wokingham Borough Council’s selected RHS Gold Medal and BBC People’s choice award-winning Landscape Architects, Davies White to create the £500,000 destination play space, which was officially opened by ‘Young Sports Personality of the Year’ Amber Hill at the start of the summer.


Young visitors gave the new play space their thumbs up after they viewed the Davies White model of the proposals back in November last year. The Davies White design reflects valuable feedback from residents and other groups on the type of play experiences the children wanted to see.


At the northern part of the play space there is a woodland picnic area, den-building structures, swinging hanging logs and mining tunnel entrance encouraging underground exploration and the building of their own play structures. There is also a woodland obstacle course. For the more adventurous, the scheme includes giant nest towers – the tallest being just under four metres, overlooking the duck pond.




The central area features many more traditional play features as well as a number of exciting new editions including the Davies White bespoke funnel net trap, play bridge and hiding holes, and a leaf shelter. The giant climbing logs, sourced locally, are three metres high with handgrips positioned by the local climbing group. Funnel trap nests will mean young children can play with older ones, as well as able-bodied and disabled all together.



Joining the main mounds is a timber bridge connecting two large grassy mounds with a secret hidey-hole. Another popular feature is the double tree top zip wire starting in a giant old Oak tree. Toddlers will not miss out either, with dedicated space featuring swings, wide slide, a willow maze and a huge giant log. A large storytelling area has been created using giant wooden eggs and willow weaving.


Dinton Pastures Nature Play Space is a winner! Location: Dinton Pastures Country Park, Wokingham. Budget: £500K Client: Wokingham Borough Council


Dinton Pastures Nature Play Space | Wokingham, UK | Davies White Landscape Architects
Design Firm | Davies White Landscape Architects

Text Credit | Davies White Landscape Architects
Image Credits | Courtesy of Davies White Landscape Architects


Damian Holmes <![CDATA[PLYGROUND | Daniel Gillen]]> 2014-11-02T07:10:47Z 2014-11-07T13:00:26Z ]]> PLYGROUND_Texfab_Plasticity_Daniel-Gillen_Landscape

PLYGROUND is the latest design from dgd:DGILLENdesign for TexFab’s annual digital design and fabrication competition. The competition investigated ‘Plasticity’ through an architectural proposal that utilizes parametric design and digital fabrication. Plasticity is the quality of being able to be made into different shapes, to be molded or altered. DGD saw an opportunity to create a catalyst for human interaction, envisioning an architecture where public interaction and engagement is heightened, facilitating undefined perspectives.

PLYGROUND interprets plasticity through user experience, form, and environment. As opposed to creating another ‘please do not touch’ parametric sculpture, PLYGROUND sets a new precedent in parametric design and digital fabrication by appealing to a broader user group, the next generation of designers, our youth. This fun landscape educates the public through engagement on the future of parametric design and digital fabrication. PLYGROUND exemplifies plasticity by creating a space for unscripted social experiences. By encouraging visitors to find creative ways of inhabitation, PLYGROUND succeeds in sparking curiosity and intrigue through its familiar yet foreign form.



Think of PLYGROUND’s form as a three dimensional puzzle, wherein the pieces can be dismantled and reassembled in three alternate configurations with differing peak heights and locations. This flexibility in design allows PLYGROUND to adapt to different environments, spaces, and purposes. Parametrically draped catenary chains generated three peaks that optimized tectonic geometry and structural loads. Surface subdivision strategies were evaluated by fabrication and assembly time, cost, and aesthetics while plywood ‘ribbons’ were algorithmically packed to reduce material waste. PLYGROUND is designed with the DNA to transform into four unique topographies, extending the projects life through adaptive re-use.

PLYGROUND is born from, CNC milled plywood, grass sod and lag bolts. The design is a symbiosis between strictly controlled digitally fabricated components and the 100% natural. “It was a conscious decision to use renewable and biodegradable materials that could be recycled or re-used following the installation,” emphasizes designer Daniel Gillen. “We were aware that the competitions sponsor was a plastics company and it was a risk, but our idea of ‘Plasticity’ includes designing for a projects full lifecycle. ‘Plasticity’ should be addressed by designers with the responsibility of how the project begins and lives, but also how it ends.”





Design: Daniel Gillen
Visual Assistance: Philipp Ohnesorge

Damian Holmes <![CDATA[Vinge Train Station | Copenhagen, Denmark | Tredje Natur, Henning Larsen Architects, MOE, RPA]]> 2014-11-02T06:45:25Z 2014-11-06T10:00:16Z ]]> Henning-Larsen-Architects_Vinge-Station_Edge

Vinge Train Station is part of a larger plan to connect the future Vinge City to regional public transit. Vinge is a new city to be developed within Frederikssund Municipality north of Copenhagen,
Denmark. Covering 350 hectares, it will be the largest urban development project in Denmark. In the middle of the new town plan, a circular station adapts organically to its surroundings. The
station’s urban space and the landscape stretch and meet to span the rails, ensuring that the railway does not divide the town into two parts.

Henning-Larsen-Architects_Vinge-Station_Concept-1 Henning-Larsen-Architects_Vinge-Station_Concept-2

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Vinge Train Station has been designed to function as the heart of the development, and to unify the movements of landscape and city. The station’s undulating topography creates a calm centre, as the non-directional elliptical shape brings the surroundings together. Located in the centre of the city, the train station offers convenient access to public transportation. This focus forms one of the many a sustainable aspects of Vinge, as more people will be encouraged to take the train to work and school as opposed to going by car.


Instead of merely functioning as a bridge, the station and the green heart are placed at the same level as the rails, visually and physically connecting the two levels. A space under the station is thereby created, where the covered train platforms and shops are located. Vinge will become a city where diversity and sustainability are essential to its comprehensive development. Vinge Train Station will constitute the centre of the new city.


Wind considerations
In order to protect the platform from strong gusts of wind, it is essential to arrange building masses to deal with and break up prevailing wind patterns. Turbulent wind currents can cause discomfort and in extreme cases, can impact the safety of the platform. The station and surrounding buildings have been designed to mitigate this effect.

One of the intentions of the elliptical bowl-shape design is to protect the platform by diverting thewind from south-west across the building. The partially-covered platform offers commuters
protection from sun, rain and snow.

Detailed wind simulations of the platform have been conducted in order to ensure that the partiallyopen platform does not lead to the above-mentioned wind issues. Wind analyses have been conducted on the landscape bridge and on the planned building volumes surrounding the station. These analyses have informed the refinement of the design and minimise the disturbance of strong winds.




The form will be constructed of in-situ concrete. Light-coloured concrete will reflect the rays of the sun and create a calm, symbolic hardscape in the city. Rain water is collected in gutters integrated into the surface of the building and will be collected in tanks at the edges of the building. This overall drainage strategy ensures a dry and anti-slip surface that does not compromise the aesthetics of the structure.

In addition, the long life-span of concrete will contribute to an economically sustainable city space for many years.

Vinge Train Station
Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Team | Tredje Natur, Henning Larsen Architects, MOE, RPA

Client |  Municipality of Frederikssund

Gross floor area 35,000 m2
Year of Construction | 2014 – 2017
Winner of invited, international competition Team Tredje Natur, MOE and Railway Procurement Agency

Text Credit | Henning Larsen Architects
Image Credits | Tredje Natur, Henning Larsen Architects, MOE, RPA

Damian Holmes <![CDATA[FUTURE GROUND Finalists announced]]> 2014-11-02T06:46:07Z 2014-11-04T21:08:51Z ]]> FUTURE-GROUND-FINALISTS-Teams-Combined
Recently, the Van Alen Institute and the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) kicked off the Future Ground competition in New Orleans, announcing the three finalist teams and launching the initial research phase with a series of events around the city.

A jury of national design and policy leaders selected the teams from a pool of more than 180 individuals from 17 countries around the world. The finalist teams include architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, lawyers, brownfield experts, and community development and finance specialists from New Orleans and six other cities in the U.S. and Canada. Read the press release→

To get their work started, the teams gathered for a workshop co-sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council on the opportunities and challenges of vacant land reuse; heard presentations from the Futures Team on the impact of changes in population, sea level, and market demand on New Orleans in the coming decades; and joined city officials, nonprofit leaders, and other local stakeholders in breakout sessions to identify key issues for the teams to address in the coming months.

The teams will meet again in New Orleans in mid-December to present their initial findings from a seven-week Design Research phase, which will include mappings, interviews, and other analyses of existing conditions. We can’t wait to see what they produce!

Future Ground is the first competition launched as part of Van Alen’s Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape, a multi-year initiative of competitions, research, and public programs exploring how the form and organization of the built environment influence our need for escape.


Team LEX

Team LEX
Led by Kristi Cheramie of Ohio State University with Jacob Boswell, Mattijs van Maasakkers, and Jennie Miller. Team LEX proposes The New Orleans Land Exchange (NOLEX), a projective framework designed to move vacant parcels from tax deficiency to productive lands in order to protect public health and safety.


Team PaD

Team PaD
Led by James Dart of the New Orleans-based design firm DARCH with Deborah Gans, LoriAnn Girvan, and Marc Norman. Team PaD will explore policy as a design tool, considering alternative property, development, legal, and fiscal structures to reconsider the city’s established design policies in the context of its collective post-Katrina capital of ideas.


Team Stoss

Team Stoss
Led by Chris Reed, Scott Bishop, and Amy Whitesides of the Boston-based design firm STOSS Landscape Urbanism with Ann Yoachim, Byron Stigge, Jonathan Tate, Kate Kennen, Liz Ogbu, Jill Desimini, Teresa Lynch, and Michael Brady. Team Stoss will focus on developing strategies for New Orleans that build on local energies; that leverage the ecological, infrastructural, and civic values of landscape; and that catalyze new social, cultural, environmental, and economic dynamics throughout the city.

More information at the FUTURE GROUNDS website


Damian Holmes <![CDATA[Otter Street New Public Space | Melbourne Australia | City of Yarra]]> 2014-11-02T06:46:40Z 2014-11-03T21:58:42Z ]]> OTTER STREET NEW PUBLIC SPACE_City of Yarra_Sarah haq_4
This little project is located at a subtly, fantastic site. You would walk straight past it. There was nothing really there. It is located at the corner of Smith Street and Otter Street in Collingwood. Smith Street has an original and colourful character. Despite the recent high house prices, it still attracts a wide mix of people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. It is a dynamic street that evolves and changes. It becomes good, and bad and then good again, and somehow also stays the same. It is a much-loved and very well known street in inner Melbourne.


While Smith Street is a busy inner city shopping strip, around the corner in Otter Street it is relatively quiet in contrast. It’s a thoroughfare for locals walking up to Smith Street. Last year some Architecture students found it and pasted their final year presentations for an free outdoor exhibition along the brick wall for passers-by to see and lots of people did stop. 24 hours later, the council cleaned the wall and the posters were gone.


The site is at the top of the only hill in the area, the start of the ‘Collingwood Slope’. Its one of the few places in the neighbourhood where there is a long view, a breathing space. There is northern sun in the mornings, warming up the four storey wall alongside the space. This wall is part of a rather grand piece of Victorian Architecture facing Smith Street. It has layers of texture from the original red brick, to various coloured paintwork done and removed, painted signs painted and removed, posters and poster-art put up and removed. Layers of history, local character and change. The fact that it hasn’t been frozen in time or a moment or a certain aesthetic, allows for the ephemeral, as there is a regular cycle of stencil art and other posters. It adds to the space, as the textures on the wall breaks down its imposing scale on the small space below it.

The design for the Otter Street new public space involved a simple intervention. It is a long, linear timber and concrete seating platform. The imposing verticality of the brick wall needed to be counteracted and yet complimented with a strong form along the horizontal plane below it. The slope too needed to be counteracted and yet highlighted, rather than fought against or ignored with levelling out and terracing. The seating deck provided the most elegant way to achieve with a small budget.


The seating deck is simple in its design and detailing, with the appearance of being placed into the landscape, while not being alien to it. It creates a place for a wide variety of users and a place to watch the world go by and to lie down and look at the sky. People are the element which makes with design work and the seating platform provides a form them to engage with in a variety of ways.


The project was timed to coincide with another council project, across the street. A series of billboard frames were installed for a regular series of artwork to be displayed free to the public and to be viewed from the seating deck.

Location | corner of Smith Street and Otter Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia
Project team | City of Yarra, Sarah Haq and Justin Hutchinson Design for the City of Yarra Council
Construction | Juniper Contractors, Rock Martin
Tree Planting | Sevron Environmental Contractors
Funding | Department of Planning & Community Development ‘Creating Better Places’ Grant
Image Credit | Sarah Haq
Model Image | Sarah Haq