Melbourne's city grid, originally envisaged as a tableau of land speculation, was originally laid over a 'strong' topography that was eventually overpowered by urban fabric. Throughout the nineteenth century the city developed into one of the most prosperous Victorian cities in the world, with institutions studding a green-belt of picturesque, gardenesque and botanical gardens to the north, east and south of the city.
The motif employed for the Federation Square Precinct beyond the immediate site is based on dialogue with members of the Wurundjeri clan, the original inhabitants of the area (our team consulted with a tribal elder and spokesperson for the Wurundjeri clan on this project). At the point where this dreamscape enters the Federation Square site, it rises up and folds over a podium, forming a new hill. This both reinforces the primacy of the dreamscape and re-establishes a topographic element for Melbourne.
At ground level the design of this greater dreamscape will resemble the historical 'moment' immediately prior to European settlement when the wooded plains, cleared and cultivated by aboriginal inhabitants resembled what the explorer Mitchell described as a 'nobleman's park'.
The siting of the Wintergarden and the Federation Square are determined by responses to existing urban conditions: the arranging of civic institutions around the inner city grid boundary (Parliament House, Treasury Building, Flinders and Spencer St. railway stations) and the tradition of the public building in the landscape to the east and south of the city. In orienting the Wintergarden parallel to the greater one mile Melbourne grid instead of to the smaller city grid (as the original Gas & Fuel Towers were sited), the scheme acknowledges the primacy of the civic or institutional place - stadium, amphitheatre, observatory, herbarium - in the landscape both natural and designed - woodland, dreamscape, the picturesque and gardenesque. The planning is fluid, allowing access from the Southbank / Arts Centre precinct, Flinders Street Station / Swanston Walk and Batman Avenue.
Circulation and planning: strangers and attractors. The double crucible spaces are the major attractors. These large glazed crucibles are transparent, so that the movement of people and the colour of the plants inside are visible, and attract people within. Once inside the landscaping displays are apparent at concourse level. Changing displays can be viewed inside the crucibles to their full height, drawing visitors to the upper level, where potentially gated access is available up curved escalators to landscape events, Cinemedia and screen culture functions and exhibitions. Both crucibles are accessible from each other at this level via a helical pathway. Access is also available to the upper levels by elevator.
When geographic formations were being created in the Victorian region large stone blocks, pushed along by glaciers, were deposited far from their origin. These foreign blocks are known as 'erratics' or strangers. Consequently, the design shows large programme-specific volumes protruding beyond the standard floor zones and above the plateau. These objects are named strangers.