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From Obsolete Tank to... THIS!

Category: Synergy | Published on 06-February-2019 13:48:45

If you look closely you’ll spot a whisper of the original tank wall peeking above the graphics. It hints at the smart design behind this award winning project.

Imagine you suddenly found yourself in the new Booran Road Play Space in Melbourne’s City of Glen Eira. Then try to suppose you hadn’t already heard about this particular project – unlikely, as it’s got a lot of good press and a few industry awards since it opened. Looking around you, it would be difficult at first glance to imagine what this 1.6 hectare site once was. Matthew Barbetta is the Open Space Co-ordinator for the City, so he’s an ideal virtual tour guide to a complex project that has delivered so, so much.

As he explains, back in the 1880s, a water storage facility was built on the site to capture water flowing down from the hills and make it available to Melbourne’s growing suburbs. While the reservoir was decommissioned in the late 1970s, it wasn’t until around 2007 when talk of what would become of the site was first discussed. A campaign by the local community and Council to keep the site as public open space was successful, and in 2010 Glen Eira City Council was appointed committee of management for the Crown Land site.

One aspect of Matthew’s job is to liaise with the public in moments like this. “There had been overwhelming support not to sell the site for residential development, and Council supported the community’s push for public open space. Once the new committee of management was in place, three waves of consultation were rolled out. “The first confirmed that it should be public open space. The second asked people what type: sports fields, mixed use or passive? And the third took their feedback and developed concept plans with areas for passive recreation and play.” Roughly 80 percent of the site was dealt with by John Patrick who drew up both the concept and later the detailed drawings. The remaining 20 percent – the playspace – was the work of ACLA.

With their work now complete, we can wander around the new reserve, moving from grassy open areas large enough to support events (literally plug ‘n play, thanks to the power and AV delivered underground) to an astonishing variety of equipped-play opportunities. Anything you’ve seen before – and some you haven’t – you’ll definitely find somewhere on this site. Truly confronting climbing challenges. Water play. Serious sand play. Trampolines and flying foxes. Swings and spins. All set in a landscape of swathes of turf, 50 trees and 8,000 understorey plants, many of which went in with TerraCottem.

When you consult community and work with good designers and contractors you end up with success – here measured by the popularity of the new park.

Together this translates to a massive range of potential expectations being met: from a lone visitor’s ten minute sit in the sun with a coffee, to a multi-generational family picnic over several very happy, active hours. “It’s been popular from the day it opened when despite a storm, 300 people came. It was great to see that amount of engagement with the kids. It’s popular. I’ve no idea of the numbers but over the first few weeks, but Council staff were on-site to help out and answer any questions and there’d be 400 people there. Just the climbing dome had 50 kids on it.”

So how was the transformation made from a two metre deep tank to all this? The fast version goes something like this. Six million was spent on ground works where the tank base was cracked, and in sections where trees would later be sited, broken up. Other sections of wall were also demolished and the material kept on site to be used as the base fill layer or to facilitate drainage. The soil tested clean so it was set aside then reused to cover the new landscape’s equally new levels and contours. Hints of the site’s original purpose were retained – among them the pump house gates and the tank wall running between the park and nearby homes. Construction involved an extraordinary variety of skills on site and given the demolition aspect, meant that it took four years to reach completion.

And to think it once looked like this. It’s a site worth visiting to appreciate just how much has been achieved...

The awards made to this project certainly focussed on the playground aspect but one also acknowledged its green credentials. Tick one came from keeping demolition materials from going to landfill. Tick two recognised the 90 native trees planted to form an out-of-bounds urban wildlife corridor between the neighbouring houses and the remaining wall of the original reservoir. More ticks followed: the park’s 500,000 litre tank that gathers and reuses water for all the grey water needs (toilets and the irrigation); and the solar panels running along the reservoir wall. “We’re tracking the site’s energy use and plan to show this information on the AV screen in the park.”

After quietly patting themselves on the back, and loudly praising those that worked with them to make it happen, you’d think that the Glen Eira team would be taking time to regroup – but no. Word is that they are looking at the large central space within a nearby racetrack. “It’s impossible to find spaces for new sports fields in inner Melbourne.” Then there are the opportunities to make the most of the public interface spaces associated with the Skyrail currently being rolled out…


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