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Designing a park for the people: Q&A with Lisa Howard, Director at TCL

- 15/04/2019

A huge new park is coming to Southbank and more than just green space, it’s set to become Southbank’s new public green heart. 

One of Australia’s most renowned landscape architects, Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) has been entrusted to create this massive space. TCL are best known for their award-winning work at Birrarung Marr, the Australian Garden in Cranbourne, Sidney Myer Music Bowl and the National Arboretum in Canberra. 

Melbourne Square’s expansive 3,700 square metre park will feature cascading water features, European inspired piazzas and a buzzing outdoor terrace for all to enjoy.  A lush space that is set to become Southbank’s new public green heart, Melbourne Square’s park will be set within a network of green space, creating a great oasis cloaked in greenery. 

We chat with Lisa Howard, Director at TCL, to take us inside what is planned - a green oasis, a network of greenery and a buzzing outdoor environment. 

What was the inspiration for the park at Melbourne Square? 

Melbourne Square’s park was designed to become part of a network of gardens inspired by Melbourne’s iconic Royal Botanic Gardens, as well as civic qualities from other cities around the world including Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. For us, the brief was focussed on creating an opportunity for residents of Melbourne Square and other buildings in Southbank to engage with nature. 

What similarities can be drawn between the Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Square? 

In a design sense, they’re not anything alike, but we sought inspiration from the Royal Botanic Gardens to make Melbourne Square part of a network of beautiful green spaces through Southbank. 

People may notice similarities in regard to the diversity of plants and how they are used in combination. Melbourne Square, though, will stand out as being a distinctly contemporary garden expression that uses plants, water and other materials in fresh and engaging ways. 

What makes this park different?
The park will be distinct in the area for its striking use of colour and the sculpted lawns. The sloping lawns at the State Library of Victoria would be the closest local similarity to this park – however, at Melbourne Square we will have richly-planted gardens, water features and alfresco dining to augment the experience. We hope this park will provide inspiration to future residential developments on the value of integrating high-quality, publicly-accessible green space.

Why are public spaces like this so important? 

Melbourne is growing more dense and its population is rising fast - we are one of the fastest growing cities in the OECD. Yet despite this, there hasn’t been a major new urban park since Birrarung Marr in 2002, and before that it was almost a century or more. Melbourne Square Park, together with the redevelopment of Southbank Boulevard into a linear park, is incredibly important to provide green spaces where people can come together and enjoy Melbourne’s vibrant public life. 

How do you envision Melbourne Square Park will be used?  
We see it as becoming a really vital space not only for residents of Melbourne Square but the public as well. Edged by verdant gardens, the park can be activated by food trucks and market stalls to encourage the growth of a social hub where people come to socialise, to play with their kids or pets, or to simply relax alone and enjoy the lush plant life and gentle sound of cascading water.

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