The Monash Forum Landscape is the heart of the original Clayton Campus Masterplan developed in 1960s. The Forum was established as a formal landscape framed by key University buildings and was a place of celebration and ceremony, reverence of education and learning, a place for student engagement, socialisation, and a place of protest. Over time, and subject to the inner machinations of University politics, student usage and grounds management, the formal qualities of the Forum were diluted and eventually lost entirely.
The TCL + Peter Elliot Architecture design of the Forum reasserts the formal qualities of the Landscape whilst responding to the contemporary relationships of students on campus. The design is based around three key moves: editing out compromised elements; re-establishing fundamental structures of the space; and inserting new elements. The design reconciles the modernist campus plan with contemporary university culture and sociability.
Responding to the current diversity of activation on Campus, the Forum needed to serve many purposes, and the editing process boldly saw the removal of selected and end-of-life trees, and the ‘de-cluttering’ of the space. Built form intrusions, particularly steps and ramps, extraneous pathways and obstructions were removed to provide a new, seamless and accessible integration between the building entries and the adjacent open space. The Gordon Ford Water Feature was removed, to enable the restoration of the space to reveal its true nature and purpose.
The Forum has been established as a single plane, the space has clarity and is reinforced in its ‘civic-ness’. The grand new sunken lawn is the centrepiece of the Forum, bordered by strong axial pathways that connect to the broader Monash Masterplan creating a legible and direct connection with the surrounding Campus.
The original pond has been reimagined as a formal, naturally-filtered water feature. Designed to be both decorative and functional, it provides a critical role within the broader University’s Campus-wide water reuse and treatment strategy. Formally arranged beds of reeds naturally filter the water, before it is recirculated, requiring no additional chemical filtration to maintain the water feature as a showpiece.
The north of the Forum landscape includes the revitalised curtilage to the Religious Centre and provides a worthy plaza to the Centre. The plaza importantly enables the multicultural facility to spill out into the Plaza, allows vehicle access for funerals and wedding cars, and host associated activities. The plaza is separated from the Forum by a Reflection Garden, that enhances the existing statuesque Eucalyptus trees. The native garden includes a weaving path, and small water feature and seating to allow a place of respite.
To the south of the Forum, the water feature frames a deck that facilitates the forecourt to the newly renovated Matheson Library and Jazz Club. A combination of fixed and generously wide seating, and loose tables and chairs, allow students to spill out of the library for study, relaxation and socialisation.
The plant species selection embodies the Campus notion of an ‘Australian parkland environment’ and utilises native species for both feature trees, shrubs and ground covers. It quietly celebrates sustainability by hosting a water feature as a natural, yet formal and iconic statement in the centre of the Forum landscape and providing drought resistant and visually arresting species.
The Forum is a versatile space, elegant and understated in its simplicity of form, and yet grand in its time of ceremony and celebration. It is the ultimate forecourt to each of the prominent buildings that it serves, providing a memorable backdrop for graduation, events, and daily university.
Project name: Monash University Forum, Clayton
Role of your office in the project: Landscape Architect
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design
Project location: Wellington Rd, Clayton, VIC, Australia
Design year: 2015-17
Year Built: 2018
Photos: Will Salter