Design Competition, Moorabin, Australia

In Disguise is the title of the proposed Moorabbin Junction project for the Street 14 Competition that intends to inspire and challenge our understanding of what a street, park, and square may be, and perhaps what they might be in defining public space in our cities.

What is public space?, I want change…, What is public?, Who owns the streets?, Who is the public?, Who owns this space?, Is it a park , Is it a street , A disguise…¸ Yes, it is hidden…, Is it a square, Is it a foyer, Life on the streets, A camouflage of what it could be, a, b, c, d or all of the above, Is it a shop, Is it a retail space, A prop-propped up, Is it a backyard, Is it a front yard, Is it a theatre, We need change…

The extended plane, which is at times a physical ground, expands to become a patch-worked canopy of public space types linked by a pedestrian loop. The canopy conceals the operations of most of the consumerist hubs including the supermarket, retail spaces, car park, and the loading bay facilities. Other retail spaces mimicking recognisable suburban forms pierce through the skin. A lush secret garden living beneath the canopy weaves between the buildings.
In disguise is a canopy which conceals the operations at play in its underbelly, mimics the suburban form of its context above, imitates the ‘high street’ spine structure of urban structures, and simultaneously
connect an array of public space typologies between the two skins to force an interplay between the existing and proposed, resulting in a dynamic juxtaposition of the familiar and the strange.

The trees are projected to a height that inspires the reverence which we generally attribute to our ‘natural environment’. However, the trees are also exposed, and held in stasis by the ‘structure’ of man in the form of the camouflage canopy. The composition is to simultaneously celebrate the beauty of the natural and free open spaces, and question our relationship to it that potentially both supports its being, and potentially restricts its matter.

The primary pedestrian path is the ‘high street’ spine connecting all the elements through a gently sloping loop with a maximum of 1:14 grade. Secondary ‘laneway’ paths lead from the main loop to a lush space beneath the canopy that is the secret garden meandering between the buildings. The micro climate produced beneath the canopy, irrigated by the water harvested, collected, filtered and stored across the site, enables the generation of a unique garden that through its fabricated alien difference questions the relationship between the natural and the built. A grid of large trees aligned to the superstructure poke through surface to strangely reveal only their canopy
structures above.

Jasper Road to the north is now connected directly through the site and under the canopy to join again with Taylor Street to the south. Vehicle access is maintained through Taylor Street through a curated schedule that manages traffic in order to minimise traffic congestion in the local area, and create a car-free pedestrian space at other times. The scheduling of the space can now enable large scale community events, or catalyse a collection of intimate spaces.
Like the circus Big Tent under which the whole town would once have gathered, the camouflage canopy is itself flexible and adaptable and is therefore able to respond to, and inspire, change that is a necessary part of the life of a complex dynamic urban fabric.