Messy Compositions

X:TCL QNAP3 Resources3 CAD1_CAD_TemplatesDrawing2 LayoutThis semester, TCL will lead an RMIT upper pool studio exploring the relationship between composition and messiness in the design of public space. The studio’s research question builds upon the practice’s Rosa Barba prize winning Auckland Waterfront project, interrogating and advancing the position that “messiness”-  friction, conflict and contrast, between scales, publics, operations and qualities – should be valued and can, in turn, be “composed” towards negotiation, exchange, and a more meaningful engagement with site. The studio will translate the design methods and thematic threads that have defined TCL’s practice approach and become an embedded fixture of the practice throughout the course of the semester. The expanding territory of Queen Vic Market will provide grounds for speculation on the composition of messiness and friction in Melbourne’s public realm.


Student Work Collage

POST #03 Final Semester Reviews

The TCL studio concluded with a final review of the proposed ‘messy compositions’ for the site. Proposals represented a broad range of approaches that resonated with discussions from the studio’s outset, around the enduring “frictions” that define public space: the friction between self and other; the friction between past and present; the friction between public and private; the friction between design/control and informal/emergent space; friction between programs; the friction between public life and consumption; the implications of spaces without friction.


“The odd one,” a proposal by Chad Akyol and Melvin Chan, for instance, focused on framing encounters between diverse publics through an expanded set of market-related programs centred on “ugly food.” By hybridizing market operations around the transformation of food with public space, the proposal revealed and contributed to networks of food access, transformation and distribution at multiple scales. The play on “ugliness” introduced novel aesthetics and activities often kept “back of house” to the site and brought them to the forefront of the project. “An other public space,” a proposal by Justine Carey and Holly McNaught, focused on the site’s heterotopic/”other” qualities, as a place on yet off the grid. Through explorations of topographic form, edge condition, site qualities, maintenance and program, they interrogated the gap that might be composed between formal and informal space. “Projecting grounds,” a proposal by Katya Hamaniuk and Martina Mohenska, reimagined the site as an observatory. By framing perception of the site’s ground plane and the city’s skyline along a picturesque path, the tension between past and present that defines the site’s ‘in-between’ qualities was exaggerated. “Weaving network,” a proposal by Jun Tan and Canna Zhao, took Rem Koolhaas’ notion of frictionless, ‘smooth’ public space to logical extremes, generating a dystopic “weave” of levels and pedestrian and operational flows. “Stitch up,” a proposal by Rob Egerton and Luke Shelton, examined and reimagined the city’s streets as a public space type, questioning the design principles that have shaped the CBD’s street and lanes over time and proposing a hybridization of street and market.

A summary of the studio’s research, representational experiments, conversations and projects will be translated as a Tickle booklet over the upcoming months.


Midsem Models_01 Midsem Models_02 Midsem Models_03
POST #02 Mid-Semester Reviews

This past week, the TCL studio held its mid-semester review, a discussion of the work produced to date, with critics Perry Lethlean, Ron Jones, Bridget Keane and Jen Lynch. After 5 weeks working independently, students had formed pairs two weeks prior to the review, and the work presented represented hybrid positions and propositions for the site, towards collaborative design proposals. This work was the first iteration of the studio’s “compositions” – design proposals intended to spark messy and productive frictions. The proposals represented a range of approaches/focuses: qualities/configurations of the site’s adjacent streets; the organization of market operations across the site; topography/site layers; thresholds/the site’s heterotopic qualities; programming to make the site more inclusive, productive, revelatory or ethical; and interpretation of the site’s history. Over the second half of the semester, the studio’s seven teams will continue to develop their schemes, with the input of the TCL studio as well as TCL’s ‘usual suspect’ collaborators, who will join the studio weekly to discuss the projects and the studio central research questions.


POST #01 Studio Walls

Exciting research, discussion and representational experiments are underway in the TCL studio, Messy Compositions.

In the semester’s first weeks, the studio undertook a series of collective research exercises to develop a theoretical discourse around friction in public space and the studio’s site, analysing readings by philosophers, social and political theorists and designers and while building a sense of Melbourne’s evolving urban form and public realm.

In the past several weeks, the studio has undertaken a series of experiments in the reading, recording and representation of the city’s formal qualities and the temporal/spatial dynamics of its public realm. Methods have include mapping (identifying structures, morphologies and patterns that might form the basis for compositional proposals) and notation (representing the flux and phenomena of public space – its messiness).

During the upcoming weeks, students will work in pairs towards speculative return briefs for the studio site, progressing towards design proposals that will be developed over the following two months.

Check back with us soon for further updates….

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The cerebral city

A curious exploration of the power of public space, urban design, and finding yourself in a city.

CerebCity_Poster01gIn this documentary, a young Australian woman discovers Melbourne’s quirky public spaces through the narration of a designer who helped transform them from a dying wasteland into vibrant places for people.



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IGA Berlin 2017 – Natur(ally) in the city!

Post 00_Former Tempelhof Airport_Site for IGA Berlin 2017TCL have been invited to design the Australian Display Garden that will form part of the International Gardens Berlin – Gardens of the World – Garten der Welt exhibition. We are delighted to be part of the international design team, so much so that we will be sharing the whole design process with you.

So check back with us weekly as the design unfolds…

IGA Berlin 2017 will present a new type of landscape discovery park as an unprecedented space where visitors can experience garden art, nature and landscape design as an integrated thematic and natural unit which is extended and enriched by offering games, sports and recreation as well as art and culture. In the context of an international landscape architecture competition in spring 2013, the new landscape discovery park is taking shape, encompassing the Kienberg and Wuhletal regions as well as the Gardens of the World in order to set up a striking, topographically very diverse landscape space offering high leisure and recreational value on more than 100 hectares.

IGA Berlin 2017


Site VisitPost #08 Exploring the site

Site Visit…

The various teams had a chance to explore the site and understand the existing relationships that are currently present.

Click on the image for a short video of the site.


Presentation 02Post #07 Presenting the Concept


Presentation of concepts took place in Berlin, where all selected designers convened to  bring forward their proposals for the International Garden Exhibition (IGA).


Post 06_Design ElementsPost #06 Cultivated by Fire

Design Concept…

Elements including charred poles, Eucalypt and Acacia seedlings, floriferous garden beds of Australian native plants and a walkable ground plane of crushed red brick reminiscent of the orange desert sands of desert and dryer regions of Australia will create the garden.

——-Post 05_cultivated by firePost #05 Cultivated by Fire

Design Concept…

The installation Cultivated by Fire abstracts and distils the practice of ‘Fire Stick Farming’ to create a mosaic garden composed of elements reminiscent of both the burnt and rejuvenated Australian landscape.


Post 04_RegenerationPOST #04 Cultivated by Fire

Sketch Design…

Landscape’s that have been modified or ‘cultivated’ by fire regenerate in mosaic like patterns as a result of this technique of varying ages.


Post 03_martu-hunterPOST #03 Cultivated by Fire

Design Inspiration…

‘Fire Stick Farming’. This sophisticated practice increases fertile growth providing an abundance of edible plants for the Indigenous people, as well as grasses for hunted wildlife like kangaroos and other marsupials.


Post 02_Banksia after FirePOST #02 Cultivated by Fire

Design Inspiration…

Banksia after fire. Banksia plants are naturally adapted to the presence of regular bushfires. Fire triggers the release of seed stored in the aerial seed bank — an adaptation known as serotiny.


KM_C454e-20150130185923POST #01 Cultivated by Fire

Sketch Design and the inspiration…

Cultivated by fire. Australia’s Indigenous people cultivate the land by fire, heat, smoke and ash enhancing abundance and fecundity’

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Return to Royal Park – Natureplay

DSC_4710The design of the new Natureplay playspace on the site of the old RCH is inspired by the seven seasons of the Wurundjeri – as based on the Kulin seasonal calendar located in the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum.

This park is a great way to discover and understand Indigenous Melbourne through immersion of play in a natural and native environment. The locations and species of the plants and play elements provide direct relationships with the seven seasons of the playspace.

Some facts of Natureplay at Royal Park:

  • Undertaken as a Partnership between City of Melbourne with Department of Health
  • Is approximately 4ha in area
  • Had a budget of approx $5 M

Some key objectives were to:

  • integrate this new park space within Royal Park and the wider CoM open space network
  • Provide a new focus in Royal Park to support a growing population and potentially greater use
  • increase the diversity of recreation opportunities and amenities within the park
  • provide opportunities for children’s play, & family and community based
  • activity create a landscape that allows for environmental and indigenous cultural
  • interpretation & awareness
  • establish a framework to guide future management of this landscape

The community inspired principles derived from the first phase of consultation which informed the design were to:

  1. Create a native park which complements the existing vegetation and the landscape character of Royal Park.
  2. Build a place which provides passive and active recreation opportunities for all members of the community including children, the elderly and people with a disability.
  3. Create a sense of entry to Royal Park that is accessible and welcoming.
  4. Design a place for creative and natural play.
  5. Provide appropriate level of amenities to support the park users.

(Refer to the Ideas Plan, as part of the link provided at the end of this blog for more information, including the consultation process).

Children were pivotal to the design of Natureplay, and were involved in a program of being engaged with nature at a very early stage in the process.

Main play element at Natureplay

DSC_4688The climbing forest is a reminder of the primate enclosures at the Melbourne Zoo – especially with a landing perched half way up around a post. The rope ladders and notched poles give you the sense you are about to climb up to a trapeze – not for the faint hearted!! Let the children climb!

The built up mound in the background is the perfect location to view the Melbourne skyline, before your inner child takes over and you find yourself rolling down its side in glee back down to the bottom…

DSC_4699The rocky escarpment allows the children scramble up the extensive mudstone boulders. Depending upon the route they take, this experience could range from being moderately easy to quite challenging, and vary in experience every single time. It is also a great environment for the children to begin to understand the concept of challenge and risk to achieve the end goal – a reward of whizzing down one of the customized slides to match their level of bravery!!!

DSC_4683It’s really encouraging to see that the park rangers really understand and embrace the notion of loose parts in open ended play, and provide material for the children to use as they wish (in addition to specific planting undertaken to provide for this method of play). Here some children have brought over dead tree branches to provide more screening to what at that time was their cubby frame. (This structure is an interpretation of the notion of burrowing – Wombat season).

DSC_4719Water play instigated by the children via manual hand pumping can be further explored with the inclusion of removable dam walls, before it runs into a sandpit. The wet part of the sandpit seems to be loved by the children more-so than the dry part…who would have thought?

DSC_4727The climbing and net structure (be it whatever the children want it to be) requires some careful thought over the best way to tackle it along its full length – it can be quite complex and challenging as there are many options to consider…

DSC_4710A linear row of swings are orientated over the playground and towards the city so whilst swinging you have the perception of soaring up over the landscape below….

Another small detail that has been incorporated into the design is the animal tracks that are set into the paths. They have not only been located in regards to their spacings and the weight bearing portion of their imprints, they have also been directed towards plants in areas that that they would normally frequent.

Currently there is only minimal interp signage. Proposed additional interp signage will provide users with more information on the many layers of information this park provides in regards to the seasonal knowledge and the relationships the Wurundjeri people had with plants, animals and the local environment throughout the seasons. Current ideas of future programs for children and other appropriate events in this space will only enhance our understanding of the proud, living culture of Indigenous Melbourne, from the young to the young at heart.

For more information refer to the City of Melbourne website, and also to the Ideas Plan and draft Design Brief here:

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It’s Effluent Tourism Darling!

The AILA Cultivate group organised a tour to the fascinating Western Treatment Plant in Werribee Victoria last month, led by Principal Biodiversity Scientist from Melbourne Water Will Steele.

WTP SEWPaC visit 120206

WTP Figure 6 – Fauna and Flora

Siting facts:
– 105 square kms of WTP plant, built in 1896
– Treats 55% of Melbourne’s waste (shower water & sewerage etc.)
– Located in Werribee so mainly gravity fed as all downhill from Melbourne with only 2 pump stations (via 4.5m dia pipe)!
– Hoppers crossing pump is 8 stories high and super sci-fi
– And because sits in a rain shadow of the Otways ranges (ie lower rainfall to optimise evaporation)

You yangs

You Yangs

Habitat & Ecological values:
– Agriculture and urbanisation in Victoria has threated wetland ecosystems, subsequently WTP has become an important substitute
– The “old sewage treatment lagoons” have been modified and now provide a world significant bird refuge due to the provision of: lots of water – even in drought, nutrients and space with limited people & foxes managed
– Ramsar listed wetlands as a major migratory bird path with thousands of rare and endangered bird species!!!!
– Research counts have shown up to 300,000 invertebrates/m square on intertidal mudflats
– The ecologists working at WTP can finely tune the water levels of the ponds to provide a variety of habitat types for different bird species/plants
– Flat treatment lagoons with rock beaching are gradually being regraded with planted banks and an undulating base to the ponds to create more variety water depth


Reshaped retention pond to provide habitat diversity


Birds galore


Bird watchers

For $50/year you can apply for a key to access the prime bird watching areas.

Treatment steps:
1. Anaerobic pond – raw sewage is digested by anaerobic bacteria
2. Biproduct of bacteria is methane which is collected from under covers & powers 90% of the WTP!
3. Biosolids stockpiled from the ponds – not yet used from the WTP although used everywhere else in world (fertilisers, fuels or even concretes). Part of issue is they have stores from 1890s which include contaminants such as heavy metals (and they have not sorted by era).
4. Aerobic ponds/Stepped lagoons – nutrients consumed by aerobic bacteria, water evaporates
5. Class C water released into the bay
6. Some water is recycled, has been a valuable asset in times of drought

Great to see human infrastructure interventions with such a holistically positive outcome!


Piped to Hoppers Crossing


Stage 1, seagulls have first dibs


Methane gas captured from under the covers to provide electricity for WTP.

Methane plan

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Auckland Waterfront featured in TOPSCAPE

The project designed by T.C.L with Wraight + Associates (WA) for the Auckland Waterfront won the 8th Rosa Barba Landscape Prize at the International Biennale of Landscape Architecture in Barcelona. North Wharf Promenade and Silo Park proves how a redevelopment project in a former industrial site can champion a new design sensibility for landscape architecture.

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The redesign convinced local authorities of the important symbolic value of the port’s historic activities, and the wisdom of prizing them as strong elements in the neighbourhood’s new vitality. Avoiding real estate speculation and a waterfront tourist complex in favour of lowering costs by reusing materials, maintaining context and structures, and catering to activities like fishing, are some of the design strategies that convinced the Rosa Barba jury chaired by Michael van Gessel.

TOPSCAPE #18: p64 – P71

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TCL wins the National Award for Research and Communication

all booklets cmyk 1As a profession landscape architects generally tend not to record the reasons for the success or failure of their projects to provide guidance for themselves or others in the future. Taylor Cullity Lethlean has recognized this and has instituted a dedicated research unit to capture and distil the lessons learnt, not only from their own projects but also from projects designed by other firms. More importantly they have generously set out to share their research with their colleagues in the landscape architecture community.

The research is carried out through a culture of staff involvement and involves alliances with fellow professionals and the medium through which it is disseminated is the Tickle series of booklets, of which five have been produced to date on topics such as Waterfronts and Streetscapes. These booklets are beautifully designed to present the material in a serious yet easily comprehended format, resisting the temptation to overcomplicate the data.

The jury commended TCL for this important contribution to the profession.

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