Immigration Museum Activation Project

Rush Wright Associates: Operating on a “pop-up” budget of $50,000, Rush Wright Associate’s aspiration was to bring the vibrant stories that are told inside the Melbourne Immigration Museum outside.

Drawing on an ‘ikat’ weaving technique, as a cross-cultural craft, new seating elements constructed from recycled plastic, have transformed an otherwise lacklustre public space, by introducing colour, texture and fresh social potential into the outdoor spaces of the Museum, encouraging people to stay longer and gather in different ways. The simple spatial gesture encourages a new sequence of progression for groups, especially schools.

The Brief

The Immigration Museum courtyard of the Museum. A ‘mini masterplan’ was prepared, which framed the initial design responses. Activation Project was a small but significant opportunity to reconsider the underutilised rear courtyard.

Great landscapes, like museums, can connect people to their environment, culture and city context. We believed there was a disconnection between what happens inside the Immigration Museum and how the outdoor spaces presented themselves to visitors and passers-by. We envisaged the courtyards around the museum as a place to continue this innovation.

Our observation of a lack of social seating and quality public space around the Museum drove our design response.

There is currently no external seating provided, requiring visitors and school groups to perch on the kerbs or to sit on the ground. We proposed a key line of investigation focussed on increasing the amount of fixed furniture to provide an orientation space for school groups (one of the most frequent user groups) along with other visitors to the museum in Melbourne.

Colour and cultural diversity

Our remit from the Immigration Museum project group was that any new incursion should be bold and colourful referencing cultural diversity. In collaboration with the Immigration Museum director and her curatorial team we selected a variety of Ikat patterns (a process of weaving wherein one or both the warp and weft are tie-dyed in colours) from the collection to study as it is one of the oldest known forms of textile decoration and has a rich history spanning multiple cultures.

Our strategy

Our limited budget forced us to be extremely resourceful in our site planning. We thinned out the existing Ficus hillii, retaining only the trees that had a successful canopy, then planned the ‘seat’ around them. The seat –or more exactly an urban ‘beam’- was designed to provide a variety of seating orientations and options.

Our collaborators- the fabricators

We have been exploring the use of part-recycled HPDE battens in a number of our other projects with Commercial Systems Australia, and used this existing knowledge and collaboration to further refine the technique of fabrication to allow the complex weaving pattern to be achieved with many small and unaligned battens.

A small but significant outcome

The seating elements have provided a bold colourful mustering point for both visitors to the museum and those searching for a place to eat lunch, stop and rest.

Awards: Recipient of the 2018 AILA National Award for Small Projects

Landscape Architecture: Rush Wright Associates

Project Lead: Cassandra Chilton
Project location: 400 Flinders St Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2017
Urban Furniture: Seating made from part-recycled HPDE battens.

Commercial Systems Australia

Metalco ArchInteligence

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