WAF’13 Landscape Award Winner – Australian Garden

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By Team IAnd Photography: Courtesy the architects

17 years into the making, the Australian garden, winner of the -Landscape of the Year Award’ at the prestigious World Architecture Festival (WAF) Awards 2013, designed by Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) with Paul Thompson is a garden of discovery, of multiple experiences and of cumulative knowledge…

The completion of the Australian garden situated within the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne on the south-eastern outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, comes at a time when botanic gardens world-wide are questioning existing research and recreational paradigms and re-focussing on new messages of landscape conservation and a renewed interest in meaningful visitor engagement.

Attempting to recreate the seductive qualities of the Australian landscape that have inspired many a designer, writer and artist, the landscape design creates a sequence of powerful sculptural and artistic experiences that recognise its diversity, breadth of scale and wonderful contrasts. Via these creative landscape compositions, the project seeks to stimulate and educate visitors into the potential use and diversity of Australian flora.

On the east side of the garden, exhibition gardens display landscapes, research plots and forestry arrays that illustrate a more formal approach, whilst on the west, visitors are subsumed by gardens that are inspired by natural cycles, immersive landscapes and irregular floristic forms. Water plays a mediating role between the two, taking visitors from rock pool escarpments, meandering river bends to Melaleuca spits and coastal edges.

Visitors engage with the botanical collections via an intrinsically interpretive experience. Didactic signage is shunned in favour of a landscape design approach that captures a heightened experience not relying on mimicry or simulacra. Designed experiences such as walking across the tangle of a Eucalypt forest floor, or the passage through wind pruned coastal heath, comprises a narrative that informs the composition, while the experience reinforces the message. It aims to strike a balance between abstraction, metaphor and poetry.

Visitors are invited into the landscape via a pathway system that constantly morphs according to the landscape narrative and garden experience. Crusty paths in the Gondwana Garden shift to become an over water circular grated plate which connects to a field of stones where the actual path is no longer apparent. It allows many layers of emotional and intellectual discovery, so not every visitor will take home the same message, as each will have their own experience.

Developed in a former sand quarry, it allows visitors to follow a metaphorical journey of water through the Australian landscape, from the desert to the coastal fringe, bringing together horticulture, architecture, ecology, and art to create the largest botanic garden devoted to Australian flora. It showcases some 170,000 plants across 1700 species all adapted to its challenging site condition.

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