One of your biggest projects has been the incredible Prince Alfred Pool and Park. Were natives a part of the design brief and what were your objectives with respect to natives? Can you describe how you approached that project in general terms and what you most love about the park?
The renewal of Prince Alfred Park removed the old pool facility building from the middle of the parklands, allowing the landscape to be visually opened and re-graded, and amplifying its distinctive pastoral quality. New activities such as playing courts, fitness hubs, playgrounds, and picnic tables are concentrated along the railway edge and the new shareway, adding life. Park entries have been aligned with bounding streets and recast, making a distinction between the old and new. Pathways choreograph desire lines and shed storm-water to grassy swales for collection and reuse on the playing field, pool lawns and meadows, recalling the creek line that once flowed to Blackwattle Bay.
New plantings and avenues draw on the Victorian love of exotica, while a rolling, grassy topography blurs the park perimeter with an urban grassland ecology. The new pool building on Chalmers Street, a ‘folded landscape’ with a native meadow roof where two crisply shaped landscape mounds define the outdoor space of the pool enclosure, simultaneously connecting and separating park and pool.
The clue to the park’s planting character came as the design team uncovered key moments in the park’s history. We tied the 1870 Intercolonial Exhibition with the remnant avenues and plantings of figs, brushbox, araucarias, agathis and palms. Many of these species were collected from the rainforests of eastern Australian. The park canopy was renewed and extended using this palette of tree species, while an understorey of mostly local native plants speaks to the foundational landscape of this country. The native meadows add to the pastoral quality and biodiversity of the park. A special moment was the sighting of a blue shimmer in the unmown grass around the closed pool – the Native Bluebell is a talisman for the restoration of the grasslands at Prince Alfred Park.