Monument to art and function in Docklands park
Melbourne’s Docklands has become a focal point for its outdoor sculpture as much as its water views.
Monument Park – designed by architects McBride Charles Ryan (MCR), artist Callum Morton and landscape architects Oculus – is the latest drawcard in Docklands.
Comprising seven sculptural “outcrops”, Monument Park combines art with function. It is utilised as a playground or simply a spot to enjoy one’s lunch.
Located to the south of MCR’s The Quay apartments, the sculptural forms in Monument Park are evocative of MCR’s architectural expression, but far from derivative.
The glass reinforced concrete shells are imbued with vibrant colour and appear to be “deconstructed”. Those who have seen MCR’s “Dome” house in Hawthorn will appreciate a connection.
“There is that connection, but Callum looked well beyond the type of work we do,” MCR principal and designer Debbie Ryan says.
“Although, some of our designs are deconstructed and sometimes pixilated,” she says.
Before Monument Park, the area had a couple of raised planter beds, just over one-metre high. These beds not only blocked the water views from those sitting in cafes and restaurants, but were also disengaging for those strolling along the boardwalk.
Places Victoria and the Melbourne City Council, along with MAB, established the brief for a new park.
Curator Charlotte Day provided a shortlist of suitable artists to work with MCR, which included Morton.
Morton selected several well-known sculptures in Melbourne’s CBD, as well as on the fringe, including The Pathfinder, Vault (which graced the city square before it was moved to Southbank) and the Burke and Wills Monument.
The images of these sculptures were scanned by Morton and cut up to form a different assemblage. And to further blur these lines, the colours chosen for each sculptural outcrop are different to those that originally appeared. The Vault, one of the largest outcrops at Monument Park, is lined in bright red rather than in yellow.
“The idea was to ‘bury’ the original forms to create a new expression, but one that still tied back to Melbourne’s history,” Morton says.
“There are no plaques and the forms are only vaguely familiar,” he says, pointing to the outstretched form of The Pathfinder lined in mauve.
The Hoddle Grid is also referenced at Monument Park, with the ground plane treated like a continuous carpet of intersecting roads and paths. Light and dark grey concrete not only appears to be draped over the seven sculptures, but is also used to loosely outline the main roads and laneways from the city “blocks”, each one finely delineated by the concrete pavers and built-in bench-style seats.
“We wanted to strengthen the connection to the city’s grid-like streets, as much as the outdoor sculpture that’s made Melbourne unique,” says Ryan, whose only disappointment is that too few of these outdoor sculptures from the past have acknowledged the role of great women in the city’s history.
While connecting to Melbourne’s past formed an integral part of the brief, so too did the need to engage with a cross-section of the community; from young children to those people wishing to have their lunch outdoors. So children leap from one sculpture to the other, exploring each form. And those eating in one of the cafes can marvel at each form while still taking in views of the water and those strolling past.
Although each sculpture appears monumental, like its namesake, each is hollow.
“We had to take into account the water table. The park is literally a platform over the water. Solid concrete wouldn’t have been appropriate in this environment,” Ryan says.
“But they are certainly strong enough to accommodate climbing children.”
Originally published by Stephen Crafti on smh.com.au