This collaborative project has established connectivity between buildings and transport hubs at Monash University’s Caulfield campus, while providing a landscape design that engages both the mind and the body.
Creative collaboration is rife on the recently completed one-hectare Monash University Caulfield Campus Green in Melbourne. Most noticeably, the Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) landscape masterplan incorporates Agatha Gothe-Snape’s large utilitarian artwork, The Scheme was a Blueprint for Future Development Programs (2015); the Sound Shell performance space by Mesne Design Studio with whole-of-project involvement by architecture students at Monash Art Design and Architecture (MADA) and the University of Kassel, Germany; and a water sensitive urban design feature by environmental consultant DesignFlow. The Green also displays the continued successful partnership of TCL and Paul Thompson in creating landscapes featuring ecotypic mass plantings of Australian natives.
TCL’s landscape design has established connectivity between the surrounding campus buildings and transport hubs while providing ample ground for the gamut of activities required of outdoor space. The generous timber decking occupying the southern area of the Green is interspersed with a jacaranda grove above colourful, mutable seats and barbecue facilities. Adjacent to the deck is an extensive, slightly sunken lawn, bordered to the north by the linear water feature running parallel with the east–west walk transecting the length of the Green. Contrasting with the green of the lawn is the blue of The Scheme , which occupies the northern section of the site, both playing on and leapfrogging the staid asphalt playgrounds of yesteryear.
The evenly segmented spine of the water feature effectively segregates The Scheme from the rest of the Green, while providing for the treatment and harvesting of stormwater from the site – it supplies more than 75 percent of the Green’s water usage. Much consider ation has been given to incorporating a wide variety of aquatic plants in the water feature, including species adapted to tolerate severe climatic conditions in the unirrigated raised garden filter beds. According to TCL, the feature element alludes to Monash University’s pioneering research on water-sensitive cities and nods, albeit sadly, to the original wetlands that occupied the area. Such plaintive symbolism recalls Hargreaves Associates’ University of Cincinnati Campus Green, Ohio (1989–2000), whose braided paths make similar nostalgic reference to a stream that once ran across the site.
The water feature is centrally punctuated, passing beneath a generous Corten steel-rimmed, semicircular timber deck situated beneath the canopy of a mature, pre-existing red flowering gum ( Corymbia ficifolia ), providing students with a spot for shaded inertia. The tree stands at the intersection of the north–south walk and the east–west walk, the latter of which unites the adjacent train station, carpark and entrance with the new library, extolled by the university as the heart of the campus. Further accentuating the linearity of the east–west axis are elongated bench seats for spectators of activities performed on The Scheme , and rows of trees, one along the southern edge of the basketball court, the other staggered along the lawn edge abutting the water feature, helping to enclose the lawn and giving resonance to an auditorium in front of the Sound Shell.
An integral element in TCL’s masterplan, the Sound Shell is a multipurpose performance space that underscores the synergetic nature of the Green. Comprising more than twelve thousand robotically fabricated panels of timber and Corian, it is positioned at the eastern end of the site, nestled among a row of mature gums. Facing the length of the green, utilizing the tiered sweep of the adjacent deck and in close proximity to the bar and bistro, the Sound Shell is well situated to stage events and entertain gatherings.
However, the most intriguing feature of the Green is Gothe-Snape’s specially commissioned, integrated artwork. The Scheme recalls to mind Room 4.1.3’s Garden of Australian Dreams (1997–2001) at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, with its geometrically charged ground plane inscriptions entangled with historical significations. Both have concern for the mapping and navigation of destinies, in stimulating individual consciousness around a journey within the collective narrative. Where The Scheme differs from Garden of Australian Dreams is in an ahistorical freedom to inscribe on a tabula rasa, unencumbered by the need to reference the national struggle of conscience that permeates Garden of Australian Dreams . The visual cleanness of The Scheme ’s primary blue, delineated by white stripes and letters, reinforces the inherent playfulness of the game spaces. The work’s purity is enhanced by the simplicity derived from its abutment to TCL’s stainless steel-edged planter areas, elongated bench seats and adjoining hard surfaces.
Gothe-Snape’s design evokes the unadulterated essence of cyanotype photography and Rod Laver Arena’s Plexicushion surface, while capturing the spatial character of a children’s traffic education training ground. Contained between a pair of unbroken white lines, the largest lettered words circumambulate The Scheme , requiring the reader to walk along them in order to spell them out. These words, such as “worries,” “memories,” “plans” and “fantasies,” appear to be aimed at provoking individual psychological or emotional responses. Additional words for static contemplation are placed across the interior plane either individually, as a ring or in a radius.
Gothe-Snape and TCL have included vertical elements necessary for sporting activities within The Scheme . Besides the obvious basketball and volleyball infrastructure, two Cloud Foosball Tables designed by Tim Collins and three yellow Popp steel table tennis tables are serried in the playground. On the tops of the latter, Gothe-Snape has deployed proper nouns diagonally opposite each other: “The Leader” with “The Thinker,” “The Joker” with “The Medium” and “The Guardian” with “The Visitor.” The coupling of sport with the mind games that can be elicited from the words inserted within The Scheme ’s field of play marks a progression, in scale and conceptual realization, in Gothe-Snape’s art. Ideas concerning the viewer’s ambulation developed in the earlier works Wrong Solo: Cruising at Primavera (with Brian Fuata, 2010) and We all walk out in the end (2012) have now been let loose outside gallery confines to stretch their legs in the open.
TCL has succeeded in providing a distinct, multifarious and efficient landscape that fulfils the cerebral and physical requirements expected in a university environment. In particularly, the collaboration with Gothe-Snape has resulted in an imaginative and seamless integration of public art within the traditional recreational sphere of campus open space.