Free, no booking required.


Sun 27 Mar
11:00 am


Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve, New Street, Brighton VIC, Australia

About Colby Vexler (Office Heuler), B+W+, Guillermo Fernandez Abascal (GFA2) and Rory Gardiner, with Louis Horne and Belinda Yang

Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve, March 2022. Photographs, Rory Gardiner

Rooms and Corridors: A Plan for Tending and Untending Past Event

Presented by Colby Vexler (Office Heuler), B+W+, Guillermo Fernandez Abascal (GFA2) and Rory Gardiner, with Louis Horne and Belinda Yang

Recently we have noticed nature on its own terms beyond the picturesque and productive. Here and there, we attempt to re-work, re-consider and repair the relationships between living organisms and the space they inhabit.

When circumscribed by residential areas, council gardens, parks and reserves have sought to give value to the “natural” environment through prescribed function and use. A pause within the built fabric, their openness is justified as necessary and their green-ness essential – a view largely embraced by policy makers, designers, local residents and the general public alike. The presence of natural ecosystems within our communities are not merely rhetorical matters, but very literal too. And yet here logic shifts reveal that environment and public space have always shared a peculiar and ambivalent bond: land is allocated, environment is assigned typology, public space is made – defined, knowable, other. In turn, there is an attempt to control these moments of ‘nature’, and by extension their repair to a ‘natural nature’ is also controlled through a human centric landscape notion: this looks right.

The Bayside City Council’s Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve (EPNR), Bunurong Country, along the edge of Nerm, in south eastern Melbourne, is a 10 year masterplan project that transforms a former public golf course into a hybrid nature reserve and human amenity park. Clearly recognising that its scale is ecologically significant to the urban context, the EPNR’s masterplan is sensitive, ambitious and necessarily contemporary; and its vision is one of sincerity and urgency as outlined by its vivid 82-page public report.

As visible works commenced early last year (2021), we became particularly interested in the site’s present condition. While a version of the pre-existing landscape – wetlands – is currently being re[1]established and constructed through mechanical means, the other half of the former golf course is, for now, left more or less untended in what might be considered a wasteland. The once manicured grass has grown long and only mown paths allow humans to move through. Long grass however, allows other species to move around safely. In contrast to the somewhat artificial remaking of the wetlands, spontaneous and ephemeral hydraulic systems are slowly presenting and establishing themselves in natural and man-made depressions.

Our inquiry speaks to the unassigned value and function of its current novel and adapting ecosystem. While this area awaits a more formal regeneration, we wonder if basic acts of gardening already in use – mowing the grass – can be reimagined to support an alternative and responsive environmental recalibration. Here we speculate on a more ephemeral and adaptive notion of public space, one less determined by function, program and use and instead more interested in being somewhat indistinguishable from the ecosystem it is cultivated from. Through ordinary acts of tending and untending – mowing or not mowing – both careful and incidental instances of repair may be observed.

This proposal is not a delicate act of architecture in the landscape or a blurring of nature reserve and human amenity park but a series of acts that sees no need to draw distinction between these two logics in the first place — to us they are both already there. Rather, it is a shift in attitude where maintenance and cultivation move together towards what repair might look like.

Led by Architects and Academics Colby Vexler (Office Heuler), Belinda Yang, Louis Horne, B+W+ of Baracco+Wright, Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal and Photographer Rory Gardiner, Rooms and Corridors: A Plan for Tending and Untending is a document compromised of some planimetric drawings, site survey photographs and short essays outlining the provisions for a subtle architectural proposal for a park currently under construction.