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Patch of Habitat

Landscape Capstone studio

2019 Semester 2

3rd Year Bachelor of Design

The project aimed to create a native landscape in the inner Melbourne with consideration for urban water sensitive design and interaction with people.

Site Contexts

Site

The site is approximately 100 x 200m and surrounded by Swanston St (E), Bouverie St (W), Victoria St (S) and Queensberry St (N). 
Four corners of the site are marked by RMIT Design Hub, the old Carlton & United Brewery, Pixel Building and Queensberry Hotel.

Topography

The site has 10m fall from the north-east corner to the south-west corner and so it is important to address it in the design. The water will run down diagonally.

Microclimate

The site is highly exposed (assuming the condition in 2013) to the sun and winds. Since there are no skyscrapers on the north side of the site, it requires shading strategies.
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Site Plan

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Concept

The project aimed to create a native landscape in the inner Melbourne with consideration for urban water sensitive design and interaction with people.
The project revolved around two key concepts: respecting ecological heritage and responding to climate change. 

Ecological Heritage

Before Melbourne was colonised, the site was grassy woodland that provided habitat for fauna and flora. The memory of the land lives in a place wherever we go, and the landscape is a crucial aspect of the spatial experience that we immerse. The inclusion of the Indigenous flora in the landscape design is a sign of respect towards where we live. 
It is also a response to the modernist approach for designing a park in an urban area; there is a tendency towards prioritising the human circulation and confining vegetated areas using hard edges such as kerbs and concrete. Also, the circulation paths are covered with rigid, heat-absorbing materials, including asphalt. This project is partly an experiment to flip the relationship between vegetation and human: what if the ecological factor is at the core of the design, and human could find a connection to the urban landscape?
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Responding to Climate Change

As climate change has been a deep-rooted issue that humans need to deal with, an open green space in the urban area holds great potential for reducing the risk of extreme flooding and urban heat island effect.
Focusing on the vegetation and landscape allows this space to be considerate of the existing climatic and environmental conditions while futureproofing the city.

Reference: Indigenous Cultural Traditions

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu tells the story of the indigenous cultural traditions that have been ignored or misinterpreted by the colonists in the early days of the colonisation in Australia. 
The history is often told from a conqueror (oppressor)'s point of view, based on their understanding of what is normal. The unique ways of harvesting and looking after the land - such as organised and well-considered forest management using fire, rock arrangement for catching fish, and planting yam daisy for food - were noted, but were not recognised by colonists. 
Reading Dark Emu made me believe that responding to the site through design should take into a count or reflect the wisdom of the indigenous culture and the environmental context that existed when the indigenous people had the full control of the land.
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Plant Selection + Zoning

Selection of plants was undertaken mainly based on Ecological Vegetation Classes and Bioregion that identify species that existed in the native landscape before colonisation. As a way to build a resilient ecosystem, species from other bioregions were incorporated.
There are four key zones and two transition zones that contain plants that thrive the best in those environmental conditions.
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Groups of plants

Layers of Vegetation

Selecting a variety of plants is not only beneficial for aesthetics but also functional.
Different types of plants - groundcover/grasses, sedges, shrubs and canopies, etc. - offer unique roles in the landscape. Selecting plants of various forms, sizes, heights, and density allows us to shape people's spatial experience and atmosphere in the environment. 
I believe that occupying space by a single species (e.g. turf) is a risk as it could create a mass detached from its environmental context. Layering plants from a range of types makes those plants blurred into the broader ecosystem.
Groundcover
E.g. Chrysophalum apiculatum (Common Everlasting)
  • Low in height
  • Speed of growth
  • Protects soil from erosion
  • Covers the ground
  • Many only require minimal maintenance
Chrysophalum apiculatum (Common Everlast
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Shrubs
E.g. Leptospermum lanigerum (Woolly Tea-tree)
  • Woody plant smaller than canopies
  • Useful for screening and hedging
  • Habitat/food source for birds
  • Visual volume
  • Variety of forms
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Sedges
E.g. Carex appressa (Tall Sedge)
  • In large clumps - defined units
  • Useful for erosion stabilisation
  • Attractive near water features
  • For defining the edges
  • Low maintenance
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Canopies
E.g. Corymbia maculata (Spotted Gum)
  • Shading
  • Reducing urban heat island effect
  • Habitat/food source for birds
  • Filtering air
  • Windbreak
  • Screening

Allocation of Zones

Based on the topography of the surrounding area, sun exposure and direction of the water runoff, the ecological zones above were allocated to the site in segments.
The manipulation of the topography further informed the zoning as it shapes the movement of water.
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Circulation & Equal Access

The elevated boardwalk is a gesture of respecting the landscape. It secures the continuation of the vegetation and minimises defining boundaries. The ramps connecting throughout the site do not only respond to the substantial topographic fall but also provide a variety of proximity to plants: Lower ramp lets you observe plants. In comparison, the higher ramp gives you a view of the landscape as a whole.
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Tectonics & Materiality

Tectonics & Materiality

The selection of materials and the tectonics are crucial for ensuring the durability and maintaining the design integrity. Hard landscape (circulation paths, shading, etc.) is continuously exposed to weathering and harsh sunlight, and so it is essential to consider these factors.
Tectonics often deal with where materials meet. While tectonics of a building commonly involve the junctions of ground/structure, floor/wall, wall/ceiling, columns/beams, structure/roof, etc., I believe that the tectonics of landscape design focus on where materials interact with the soft landscape (vegetation) and the ground. 
Architectural tectonics is the assemblage of elements. The project I undertook through Construction Design analysed and visualised design considerations and processes involved in bringing design into physical form. 
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Site Plan

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Zoning

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Key Elements

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At 5 years

Section AA'

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Section AA'

At 10 years
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Section BB'

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Water Runoff Plan

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