PROJECT Royal Park
LOCATION Melbourne, VIC
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS Grace Fraser (1977 design for 4 hectare Australian Native Garden), Laceworks Landscape Collaborative (Brian Stafford & Ron Jones – winners of 1984 design competition), Chris Dance Land Design (1997 Revised Master Plan), Rush Wright Associates (Draft Landscape Master Plan – wetlands)
Royal Park, Melbourne’s largest park located 3 kilometres from the CBD, has a long history of European use. Set aside by La Trobe in the 1830s for recreation, the park was a generous 240 hectares in area. This was later whittled down to its present size of 180 hectares. The park combines a range of sporting facilities, areas for passive recreation and is also home to the Melbourne Zoo. Original plantings included pine species along with the locally occurring Eucalyptus camaldulensis, (River Red Gum).
Melbourne City Council gained control of the parkland in 1934. The overall character of the park has developed over time into an informal Australian native landscape. Indigenous Eucalyptus species dominate the plantings along with Casuarina and Allocasuarina species.
In 1977, Grace Fraser, one of the AILA’s initial members designed the Australian Plant Garden. This four hectare site, adjacent to Gatehouse St, displays indigenous plants and attracts a variety of native birds.
Seven years later, Melbourne City Council and the AILA sponsored a national design competition for a Master Plan for the park, offering prize money of $13,000. Laceworks Landscape Collaborative, made up of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) lecturers Brian Stafford and Ron Jones were the successful entrants creating a subtle vision for the park.
The park was to express the character of the landscape first experienced by European settlers – a spacious landscape which opened up to the sky. The report accompanying the winning Master Plan explained the design concept:
The aim is to create a coherent, informal pattern of dominant eucalypts in a naturalistic woodland, crowned with the hill covered in native grasses. (Landscape Australia Report 1985, 137)
Stafford and Jones felt that the designer’s role should be disguised and earthworks and infrastructure should be as simple as possible to complement the unstructured park character.
In 1997, Chris Dance Land Design lead a team to provide a Revised Master Plan and Report on the future development of Royal Park. This plan draws on the work a decade earlier by Laceworks, aiming to update the winning Master Plan whilst maintaining its philosophy. The report recommends increasing the use of the park by improving visitor facilities such as picnic areas as well as providing interpretive signage.
In keeping with greater concern for the care of urban waterways, plans for development of wetlands within the park were completed by Rush Wright Associates in 2003.