Otter Street New Public Space | Melbourne Australia | City of Yarra

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

OTTER STREET NEW PUBLIC SPACE : 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