Sheffield landscape architects to design Melbourne parks and gardens

cgi of Melbourne Arts Precinct

Two Sheffield landscape architects have been chosen to redesign the Melbourne Arts Precinct.

Professors Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough, from Sheffield University’s Department of Landscape Architecture, will create minimal water-use plantings in 18,000 square metres of public space in Melbourne.

The pair previously created the floral displays at London’s Olympic Park with the world’s largest man-made wildflower meadows. They will work with international design practice HASSELL and New York firm SO-IL to transform the Arts Precinct, which hosts one of the highest concentrations of arts and cultural organisations in the world.

The team will create an elevated park, gardens and pedestrian spaces in the Southbank area, which links 30 galleries, theatres and arts organisations with the National Gallery of Victoria, Arts Centre Melbourne and the soon-to-be-built National Gallery of Victoria Contemporary.

Professor Dunnett said: “The exciting aspect of the Melbourne project is that it was won largely on the basis of the planting design content: it was the distinctive element in the proposals compared to others in the competition.

“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.

“In particular it captured the imagination of the artists, cultural organisations, 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 plantings will be designed to provide a succession of seasonal, month-by-month highlights that will mirror the changing art shows within the National Gallery of Victoria. An estimated 10,000 new jobs will be created during the regeneration project. Once complete, the arts precinct is expected to draw an additional three million people to the area each year.

Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, said that this once-in-a-generation project will reshape Melbourne’s arts heartland. “This project will bring the colour, creativity and activity that happens within our galleries and theatres outside for all to enjoy – no tickets required,” he said.

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. It is a great coup for [Sheffield University] to have its staff playing major roles in such world-leading projects.”

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