‘Dramatic, diverse’ planting design for proposed Melbourne Arts Precinct public spaces

The proposed new public spaces at Melbourne’s Southbank arts precinct is set to become a major international landscape project, with seasonal planting that will mirror the changing art shows at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The planting will be designed by University of Sheffield landscape architecture professors Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough who will create minimal water-use planting for the 18,000 square metres of renewed public spaces in the precinct.

Dunnett and Hitchmough will work in collaboration with Hassell and SO-IL on the project, which will create elevated parks, gardens and pedestrian spaces.

The team were selected following a competitive tender process. Dunnett said the planting design content was a key element of their winning proposal.

“The concept of filling the site with dramatic, diverse, sustainable and beautiful planting, and then carving out spaces for human use within this planted matrix, was a hugely compelling one,” he said.

“In particular it captured the imagination of the artists, cultural organizations, and art foundations involved. It’s a reflection of something that is becoming increasingly obvious: that planting design, and the associated creation of healthy urban environments, is now taking centre-stage in major international landscape projects.”

The planting design will provide seasonal, month-by-month highlights in the public spaces. Victoria premier Daniel Andrews said, “This project will bring the colour, creativity and activity that happens within our galleries and theatres outside for all to enjoy – no tickets required.”

Dunnett and Hitchmough lead a two-year trial and research for UK’s largest man-made wildflower meadow head of Olympic Games in London.

Professor Hitchmough said: “The Melbourne Arts Precinct is another major project in which planting is seen as one of the key issues in making rich and exciting public space.”

The redevelopment of Melbourne’s Southbank arts precinct, which will include two new buildings as well as renewed public spaces, is masterplanned by ARM Architecture and TCL. Architects have not yet been appointed for the buildings.

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