Kicking off with a rousing Gunaikurnai smoking ceremony, the redevelopment of the former Port of Sale Civic Centre in Victoria’s Gippsland region was officially opened on Saturday 27 January to thousands of excited locals.
The site masterplan and detailed design and construction supervision for the landscape component was provided by TCL, as an integrated part of the refurbished art gallery and library building designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT).
The new landscape consists of three distinct sections along Foster Street and Canal Road – the Eastern Section, the Central Section and the Western Section – connecting to Flooding Creek and the Thomson River to the south.
The Eastern Section includes an outdoor youth hub with skate plaza upgrade, new play opportunities, outdoor sporting facilities and barbecue shelters.
The Central Section is defined by the Hub Forecourt seating space and large lawn area and is designed to host events.
The Western Section includes a central walkway, 'the promenade', and bespoke seats that incorporate Gurnaikurnai Dreaming stories, grass terraces and large areas of lawn to accommodate events and spill-over from the adjoining Entertainment Centre, Art Gallery and Library.
“The lawn encourages people to roll and kids to play and run, and [links] the Borun and Tuk tale of the Gurnaikurnai people, as Sale was an important trade route, and important pathway,” said Cr Carolyn Crossley.
Sokchhay Ke, Senior Landscape Architect at TCL, attended the launch event and said he was blown away with how enthusiastic the community were toward the revitalized precinct.
“I’ve never seen so many people sitting on one bench!” he said. “This has been a community project from start to finish, so it was heartening to see a positive reaction from people of all ages.”
A decision to clear the stretch between the Wedge and the Wellington Centre means that people can now see the port from the highway, which wasn’t previously the case, encouraging out-of-towners to stop and explore the site.
“The project really does achieve a high level of visual connection between the building and the landscape, the new landscape and the river, and the building and the river -- this was a core ambition, so it’s great to see it has been achieved,” said Sokchhay.
The planting for the project was derived from Gunaikurnai Country, which includes much of East Gippsland. According to planting designer Paul Thompson, who collaborated with TCL on the project, the planting design provides a subtle but meaningful gesture to the Indigenous story of this place.
"The council were keen for the landscape to engage with Indigenous stories and sense of place, so we decided with was the way to do it, and to set a strong foundation for them [the Council] to expand upon it here and elsewhere if they wanted to."
The key moves embedded in TCL’s design include:
Image: The Gunaikurnai smoking ceremony on launch day. Photo: Sokchhay Ke.