Urban Initiatives: JMR Nature Walk is an elevated boardwalk that spans the southern boundary of the Jock Marshall Reserve (JMR), providing pedestrian connectivity between the heart of the Monash University Clayton Campus and properties along Blackburn Road. Designed and documented by Urban Initiatives with oversight from Monash Buildings and Property and Monash Design Review Panel, the light weight and elegant $2M structure allows public enjoyment of JMR, a restricted access remnant bushland area used predominantly by the School of Biological Sciences. JMR is a valuable research and education facility, established by the Foundation Chair of Zoology and Comparative Physiology, Professor Jock Marshall in 1961. He was an early environmental campaigner who advocated for the characteristic native plantings on campus. JMR is home to the only remnant indigenous vegetation on the campus and is ecologically rich. The Nature Walk creates a new pedestrian campus entry with a strong presence on Blackburn Road, and allows the educational and environmental qualities of JMR to be preserved while enabling canopy level access and appreciation by students, staff and the general public.
The Clayton Campus Masterplan aimed to unlock the potential of JMR as an amenity landscape for the wider campus. Urban Initiatives developed the JMR Mid Level Plan, a visioning document that laid out the future strategies for enhancing the site over the next 10-15 years. Consultation with the School of Biological Sciences, made clear that fencing and restricted access are integral to maintaining the educational value of the site and that real opportunities lay at the interfaces between the reserve and its surroundings. The Plan developed an overarching vision for JMR as the ‘green lungs’ of the campus and the Nature Walk as a connective ‘capillary’. Guiding principles and design strategies were developed to ensure maximum public benefit with minimal impact on sensitive nature of the ecology and research activities of the Reserve.
Visual and physical impacts were considered through all stages of the design process, from concept to completion. The set-out was carefully planned around the retention of all valuable vegetation and designed in segments to be assembled off site and craned into the Reserve. ‘V’ shaped central columns allow a single row of footings to minimise the footprint. As the School of Biological Sciences required the retention of the existing chain mesh fence, the perforated corten steel balustrade was designed to seamlessly meet the fence at crossover points in such a way that the fence disappears below. The boardwalk is an object that has been designed to be appreciated and experienced ‘in-the-round’. Abstract cellular patterning on the perforated balustrade panels and abstracted tree trunk fence panels subtly reference the biological sciences. Drone photography was used during design development to map the path of the boardwalk through the existing tree canopy. This enabled images tailored to the required views enabled fast and effective communication with all stakeholders as to exactly how the walk would interact with existing vegetation, and adjacent sites and residential colleges. The leaking dam wall was stabilised prior to the boardwalk construction with minimal impact on sensitive ecology and without draining the lake. A narrow trench was back filled with bentonite to provide an impervious barrier.
The conflicting needs of stakeholders were managed throughout the project including the School of Biological Sciences, Residential Services, Buildings and Property and Monash Sport. The proximity to residential colleges, connections with the Monash Tan and path network, and the need to preserve existing vegetation and fencing were all worked through with stakeholders. The rapidly changing Monash landscapes and implementation of a council shared path on Blackburn Road required ongoing consultation.
The Nature Walk provides an educative environment, improved connectivity, and a place for passive recreation. As an all access pedestrian thoroughfare with seating and views across the lake into the Reserve, it is a space for quiet contemplation away from the busy central campus. The two decks incorporate seating, book leaning rails, wheelchair accessible desks and power points to facilitate group learning. By creating a public experience of JMR with minimal on ground disturbance, the Nature Walk invites greater opportunities for connection to the Reserve and collaboration with its users, and enables further restoration of biologically diverse local ecosystems. The Nature Walk is a unique public realm asset that promotes Monash University as a world class educational facility at the forefront of innovation. The JMR is an on-campus facility that sets Monash University apart from its competitors. The Nature Walk lifts the public image of the Reserve and understanding of its function and value and offers significant economic and social and cultural value to the University.
Office Name: Urban Initiatives
Role: Lead Consultant
Project name: Jock Marshall Reserve Nature Walk
Project Location: Monash University Clayton Campus, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria, 3800, Australia
Client: Monash University
Sub-consultants: John Mullen and Partners Engineering – Structural & Civil Engineer
BCS Building Consulting Services Australia – Services Engineer
ACE Contractors – Builder
Arterial Design – Signage
Vantage Drones – Drone Photography
Turner & Townsend Thinc – Project Management
Currie and Brown – Quantity Surveyor
Architecture and Access – DDA Consultant
Tree Logic – Arboricultural
Red Textas – Quantity Surveyor
Design Year: 2015-2016
Year Built: 2016
Photo: Drew Echberg – Photography
Awards: AILA Landscape Architecture Award – Infrastructure 2017