Australia’s best landscape architecture projects for the past year have been unveiled.

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects has announced the winning projects of its 2022 National Awards.

All up, the awards celebrated 40 projects across seventeen categories involving green infrastructure, public open spaces, play, healthcare, education and tourism spaces and gardens.

Several projects stood out and received an Award of Excellence.

One of these was the $10 million redevelopment of Leaks Club Park in Gosford into a nature-inspired regional play space in the heart of Gosford’s CBD (pictured above and below) (see link).

Situated at the norther point of the Brisbane Water estuary, the project aimed to create a community ‘node’ around which people would gather not only from Gosford but from around the Central Coast.

A standout design feature was the connection of the park to the water/estuary – a task made difficult by the existence of a multi-lane highway which lay between the two.

This was done through placement of a large pipe under the road.

Such a connection paid homage to the area’s natural history. Through research and historical surveys (including one dated back to around 1920), the design team learned that water originally came into the park and that a boundary line on the site represented what had previously been the high-tide mark.

Connecting the park to the water enabled creation of a tidal terrace or tidal park. This works with the natural environment and brings water into and out of the park with the natural tides.

The design also embedded nature and local indigenous culture and to create an educational and sensory place.

In addition to the connection between sea and land, this involved images within water terraces such as stonework which resembles local sea life (further connecting water to land), plants which aboriginal people used for medicinal and bush food purposes and the planting of over 30,000 plants and trees all of native species.

In delivering this, the design team worked with the Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council and engaged with one of their artists.

(images: supplied)

Another celebrated project is the draft concept plan to transform Cockatoo Island/Wareamah (see link).

At 18 hectares in area, the island is the largest in Sydney Harbour. It sits approximately three kilometres west of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Prior to colonisation, the island was used as a place for meeting and fishing by four aboriginal clans (Gadigal/Wanga/Wallumedegal and Cammeraygal).

Since colonisation, its history includes being used as a penal colony and as a major shipbuilding hub.

Features of the plan include:

  • Upgrades to the entry and site orientation experiences, including by starting the journey through acknowledgement Country and the Traditional Owners upon arrival
  • A tidal terrace which will provide a new meeting place for Sydney with gardens, lawns, picnic areas, water play, sculpture and boardwalk. This will include the rebuilding of vast concrete slabs and lawns of the Eastern Apron to bring the sweater of the harbour back close to the line of the original sandstone foreshore.
  • A marine precinct for boats, education, innovation and work
  • ‘The Plateau precinct including convict sites, workshop space, accommodation options, dining and city views.
  • A new playground with adventure play, water play, maritime interpretation and environmental education.
  • An improved campground at Cockatoo Campground with additional tents and new and improved facilities to encourage bush camping in the city’s backyard.

(image source: supplied)

Finally, a third celebrated project is the Wangayarta (see link).

In traditional Kaurna language means ‘’wanga’ means ‘grave’ and ‘yarta’ means ‘land, earth, ground, soil, country’.

Located within the Smithfield Memorial Park, this is a two-hectare purpose built memorial park dedicated to Kaurna ancestral remains reburials.

Open in 2021, the park was co-designed by the Kauna Yearta Aboriginal Corporation, the Kauma Community and multi-disciplinary design studio.

Features include:

  • An entry which is marked by nine sandstone boulders that were intricately carved by Kaurna artist Alan Sumner.  The first stone is etched with ancestors’ footprints returning to Country and their final resting place.
  • A small water course which transitions the entrance to the ceremony area. The water reflects Karrawirraparri and the Kaurna stories which the river supports from the hills to the ocean.
  • A central lawn ceremony area in the shape of a Kaurna shield which is a symbol of protection.
  • Four reburial mound areas at the edge of the lawn with one at each point north, south, east and west.
  • Stone firepits and a metal bower shelter provide places to prepare for reburials.
  • High earthen mounds covered in native shrubs and trees which hug the boundary and pay tribute to very old Kaurna burial practices.
  • Over 5000 shrubs, trees and ground-covers to shade the reburied ancestors with the traditional food and medicine and the colours, sounds and smells that the ancestors grew up with.

(images: supplied)

AILA President Claire Martin said that Australians increasingly understand the need to connect to each other and their environment – a phenomenon she attributes to factors such as the pandemic, growing mental and physical health concerns and increasing concerns about the climate and biodiversity.

“People want where they live to improve their quality of life, their physical and mental health, and the health of Australia’s waterways, habitats and wildlife,” Martin says.

“Landscape architects work everyday to design the sort of spaces and places that deliver these social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits.”

Martin says the awards showcase the effect of landscape architecture on Australian country and society.

“The spaces and places landscape architects design help people to care, play, learn, and work, to exercise or to rest, to find respite or to gather, to celebrate or commemorate. They help to tell the truth about our history and speculate about a more equitable future.

“The range of projects recognised in this year’s awards illustrate how children and adults of diverse cultures and backgrounds connect to landscapes every day across a range of scales – from neighbourhoods to campuses, buildings to infrastructure, suburbs to cities.”

A full list of winners and celebrate projects can be seen here.


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