PLACE Laboratory is a youthful and energetic practice in Perth, with a grounded history in Perth and Western Australia. It brings together a culmination of 30 years experience in boutique design focused studios and large international transdisciplinary firms. PLACE Laboratory’s aim is clear – to amalgamate the very best of boutique and large scale business models to create a client and project focused practice providing;
/ World-class knowledge leadership.
/ Intelligent and innovative design outcomes.
/ Direct and continuous involvement of Directors in all projects.
/ Cost effective operations providing direct financial benefit to clients.
/ Innovative and collaborative models focused on client outcomes.
/ Project vision keeping. /Robust and trusted client relationships.
/ An intimate knowledge of worldwide design trends applied to the local market.
/ Effective project management systems.
/ On going focus on Sustainability.
At PLACE Laboratory we believe that the public realm is the stage for ‘life’. When the public realm is designed well, the combinations and possibilities of life’s acts are infinite. The interplay between buildings and open space sets the stage. We see our role as landscape architects and urban designers to understand and work with the dynamics of this interplay. That is what sets the stage for life to perform. As spatial designers we stage the ‘sets’ that are required for people to make it a valuable and significant contribution to the overall culture of a city. We do not advocate design for designs sake. We believe the role of the designer is to interpret the cultural underpinnings of a society and to give life and meaning in three dimensions to the physical form of space. Spaces, which are engaging, meaningful, delightful, walkable, welcoming, attractive and vital. To be effective in attracting and holding people, three aspects are crucial: the physical appearance, the uses and the narrative of the place. A beautiful place attracts people, a buzzing place attracts people and a meaningful place attracts people. Places need to be safe, technically sound, environmentally healthy and function smoothly. However, it is the first impression that gets people’s attention, triggered by beauty, buzz and meaning. Places that exhibit the qualities of good design have great social, economic and environmental value. They bring positive tangible results that are increasingly being recognised by the urban development industry. Strong destinations that are accessible, well connected and have a distinctive quality, enhance the sense of belonging, safety and security. This attracts many and creates the potential to offer higher returns on investment. A strong destination needs to differentiate itself. We avoid the homogenized, and create lively and dynamic spaces that enhances the quality of life for residents, workers and visitors.
/ Places for people
Activating the spaces, creating lively places where people connect and communities develop.
/ Unique narrative
Creating a story that guides the design, people relate to and can discover.
/ Fresh ideas
Designs that are surprising and enthusing, trigger smiles and new thoughts and reinvigorate people.
/ Technological innovation
Continually identifying opportunities
Photography: Dion Robeson
Railway Square is a new public space located at the Railway Workshops in Midland. The square is in the former shunting yards when trains were shunted into and out of the workshops and is recognised as an important twentieth century industrial heritage site of state and national significance.
Railway Square is being transformed into a new civic heart for Midland, providing a destination public space surrounded by restaurants, cafes, a hotel, apartments and the heritage listed buildings. The design of the square brings together storytelling and place activation to create an inviting space for everyday use by locals and a high-performance event space capable of hosting larger events for the broader community.
The design of Railway Square interprets the former use of the space through industrial materials, custom rail furniture, artworks and interpretative rail lines that run through the space. The rail lines have been designed to tell the stories of the site:
• The Live Line is an existing live railway line that is integrated into the design of the square.
• The Social Line includes a line of rail furniture for sitting, lounging, playing and meeting.
• The Water Line is a linear misting and lighting feature that references the history of steam engines and movement of trains through the site.
• The History Line consists of an interpretive artwork set between the rail tracks that tells the history of state wide rail
• The Lost Line is a rail line that disappears into a garden bed of a development site interpreting the decline of the workshops in the 1990s.
Photography: Dion Robeson
The Curtin Medical School provides a transformative new teaching facility with state-of-the-art technology, modern teaching & learning spaces and landscape interventions that represent latest evidence based principles around student experience and learning outcomes as well as expressing the University’s commitment to innovation though the Greater
The building and its external environment is conceived as a singular proposition with teaching and learning not restricted to the confines of the built form according to traditional models of educational buildings. Instead, internal and external spaces have been carefully choreographed and orchestrated to provide a physical and visual flow between them, breaking down the real and perceived divide of “inside and outside”. The project reached one of its stated aims “to achieve a 70:30 ratio of Informal to Formal teaching spaces” recognising that most learning occurs outside of and after formal teaching takes place.
PLACE Laboratory’s intent was to build upon the University’s desire for places and spaces within the campus that are people focused, welcoming and vibrant learning and workplaces for students, teachers and staff. The concept of designing space as a “creative catalyst” where an inspiring environment within a garden like setting can facilitate social interaction, heightened sensory engagement, collaboration and the opportunity for new ideas and innovation to emerge.
Photography: Dion Robeson
Curtin University’s Innovation Street and Medical School are the first significant projects to be realised according to the aims and ambitions established by the Greater Curtin Masterplan developed by Curtin University in 2014.
Innovation Street and the Medical School heralds the coming together of the past and future by creating a physical and symbolic link that stitches the old campus (academic core) with the new campus (urban centre) at this critical northern gateway. The projects establish a benchmark for the delivery of the future Greater Curtin Masterplan in terms of best practice outcomes for urban campus environments and a public realm that puts peoples’ experience front and centre. It also signals a new design language and unique Curtin identity for the future development of the Public Realm in terms of materials palette, paving patterns, spatial hierarchy, urban infrastructure and furniture.
The social vitality that has emerged because of these works will be further enhanced with the completion of Greater Curtin Stage1, which will include the development of the adjacent lots and is likely to include a new Academic Buildings as well as student housing and apartments supported with food and beverage and retail activating the ground floor at street level. The increase in people and activity with the Stage1 development will build upon and further enhance the energy, interactions and socialising that is already taking place.
Photography: Robert Frith, Acorn Photo
The John Curtin Court at Curtin University, has been transformed as part of the campus wide Place Activation strategy. John Curtin Court is the ceremonial heart of the campus, and as such a significant site in which to demonstrate a change in thinking and behaviour of the University’s culture. The upgrade turns an empty lawn that featured ‘No Games’ signage and was occasionally used for graduation ceremonies, into an inspiring place that welcomes people and encourages community interaction year around. The design puts human experience front and centre and combines it with high quality crafted landscape interventions that are carefully integrated into a significant existing site. The new design and activation that it brings with it sets the stage for the cultural and spatial transformation of Greater Curtin.
The lower terrace creates a serene atmosphere, with large arched benches embracing the ceremonial lawn. Segmentation of the 32m long elements combine level changes with nooks that invite people to snuggle in. The sculptural form of the bench constructed in Jarrah subtly varies from upright seating to more relaxed, deep-pocketed lounges that adds warmth and a human scale to the space.
Photography: Dion Robeson
Throughout the Perth Metropolitan Area, sections of arterial roads are developing into vibrant main streets full of pedestrian liveliness. Cafes are opening, alfresco inhabits the sidewalks, shops are diversifying and displaying their merchandise outside. These urban strips are buzzing. However, the liveliness is confined to the sidewalks. Cars still dominate the street, leaving limited room for people to meet, stay and socialize. To develop these main streets, the sidewalks need to be supplemented with plazas and piazzas, places where the potential of urban life can unfold. Mary Street Piazza creates such a place in the heart of Beaufort Street, Highgate. It does so by using existing public realm – the road reserve – instead of going through the lengthy, uncertain and expensive process of negotiation with developers or acquiring private land to create a public plaza.
These piazzas must be lively, well used and embraced by the community. Integral to realising this is developing the place from ‘grass roots’ through community engagement. Mary Street Piazza began as a community initiative; an ideal setting for a successful outcome. The design must honour the community’s aspirations and pair them with fresh ideas and an understanding of local spirit, creating a refreshing design that lifts the physical place above all expectations.
Photography: Peter Bennetts and Place Laboratory
Many of the greenfield developments in the Perth Metropolitan Area tend to erase the landscape and treat the site as a blank canvas. They compete on lot-price, more than the quality of the residential environment they produce. This results in a range of issues, from a lack of identity to the creation of heat islands due to extensive roofs and asphalt areas. Often, these new subdivisions are devoid of liveliness and human activity in the public realm.
The developer of Yanchep Golf Estate, a new estate for 1,500 households, deliberately aims to produce better outcomes. PLACE Laboratory was engaged to achieve a competitive difference. The office has brought a combination of landscape urbanism and place making to the project, influencing all aspects from planning, engineering and landscape architecture to marketing. The resulting master plan focusses on delivering an established and activated landscape, ready for new residents to move into. The masterplan objectives have been implemented in the design of the streets and public spaces, of which seven stages have now been delivered.
The pocket park, nestled into a landform within a stand of Tuarts, marks the entrance to the community. It incorporates a range of surprising elements inviting kids and parents alike on a treasure hunt of wildlife sculptures, signs and other hints, telling stories of the local environment and cultural context. On every level the open spaces celebrate golf and the bush, stimulating people to come more active and connect with the landscape and each other.