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Peripheral Living volume II Urban Architecture Laboratory

Peripheral Living Urban Architecture Laboratory, RMIT The Black Saturday bushfires wreaked most of their damage in the north-eastern hinterland of Melbourne’s greater metropolitan area. The advent of the fires drew attention to a region that is intertwined with but also in many ways outside the culture of the city. The communities of Kinglake, St Andrews, Flowerdale, Healesville, Yarra Glen, Marysville and others in Melbourne’s north-east are neither truly rural nor urban, but exist in an overlap zone of low-density peri-urban settlement, physically detached from and culturally distinct from the city, but still reliant on the metropolis for jobs, services and visitors. The affected region plays a number of roles on a regional and urban scale. The north-east ranges are Melbourne’s primary water catchment, with their high rainfall and dramatic topography providing many weekend tourism destinations, alternative lifestyle options, and fundamental water infrastructure supporting the lives of millions. As such, the forests, watercourses and other infrastructure of the region are important not only to local communities but crucial to the functioning of the city as a whole – a point made clear by the recent political and land/ water-rights controversy of the Sugarloaf pipeline. The work started with a series of questions, galvanised by the tragedy of the fires: What is the periphery? On whose terms? What does the annual cycle of fire-danger mean in terms of sustainable (endurable) living in such places? How can we plan better and more strategically understand our inextricable relationships with each other and with the city as a whole? How could we broadly re-think the limitations and possibilities of real community life on the fringes of our cities within such bush environments? As architects and landscape architects, our field of research is always connected to the physical: where should we build? How should we plan? How can we live spatially together? How can we both move-with and respectfully-control this wonderful and powerful landscape, which has the ability to both entrance and destroy us? How can we think in a contemporary way about community interaction, the sustainable provision of services, and shared life in a region of low density and sparse, scattered settlement? Research started by looking at what exists: how land has been used and settled in this area over time, the types of infrastructures and landscapes (formal and informal) that have developed to support private and community life. In this case we were also literally looking at what remained after the fires: scarred bushland, concrete floor slabs and remnant infrastructure, emergency housing around football ovals, temporary buildings and makeshift town centres; all imbued with a strong sense of community resilience. Ultimately this work was about rethinking the role of the rural periphery and its relation back to the city, from a personal to a regional scale. Design projects ranged from landscape interventions on the scale of a township to architectural strategies for individual properties and structures.

Rutger Pasman proposes re-grouping and strategically connecting neighbouring properties to better work together in times of emergency. A careful analysis of existing landscape and settlement practices in the area around St Andrews allows a series of small but focussed interventions to change the way this scattered community relates and grows over time. This proposal raises the potential for shared emergency infrastructure to double as smallscale accommodation and recreational facilities in non-fire times. Viet Tuan Pham explores intensifying and making more strategic the use of existing community facilities clustered around football ovals in small towns - and considering these as a network of support centres throughout the region. The existing public space is augmented by a range of adaptable programmes and structures, enabling different events to take place during emergency, transitional and permanent phases of living. Simon Venturi develops a housing model on the edge of existing farms, utilising the farm’s existing infrastructure (dams and sheds) as community collection points in emergency situations, and connecting new residents to the local knowledge of the farmer. This model is based on the co-existence of residential and productive uses of land, seeing new development as potentially contributing to the endurance of other land uses, in a mutually-dependent relationship. Lan Tian takes a landscape systems approach and maps the water infrastructure around the region of Healesville. An alternative water collection and distribution system is proposed which links landscape and infrastructure to community space, also considering the potential for shared resources on the scale of residential development.

This project was undertaken in the second half of 2009 by Master of Architecture by Research candidates within the Urban Architecture Laboratory research unit, in conjunction with Architecture and Landscape Architecture professional degree students at RMIT University. We would like to thank all students for their many insights, and for their commitment to contributing in some way in the wake of the tragic events of February 2009. Nigel Bertram and Gretchen Wilkins 1

re-Group, St Andrews! rutger pasman

studies of an architectural precedent


study Yarra Valley 2

With the recent catastrophic bushfires of February 2009 the opportunity comes to relook at the Melbourne periphery as an entity of its own. We quickly think of Treechange, National Parks and recreational facilities. Further investigations tell of a deeper and more diversely layered landscape at the edge of the Metropolitan area. By looking at different sources and examples of similar areas globally we can test different strategies and revaluate the area in its significance to Melbourne and the state of Victoria. The ideas coming out of this study could be applied here or in similar conditions globally. The bushfires therefore generated, however disastrous their effects, a new point of looking at the city.


On; scale




a scale comparison: A typical suburban quarter acre block B typical peripheral block (15 acres) C typical rural block (15 acres +)


Studies for a peripheral living typology 4


On; community I

These sketches question if we can think differently about the notion of properties, borders and boundaries. Like a Japanese temple can we make a philosophical shift instead of a physical one? The current plot boundaries are unseen and usually only visible on cadastral maps. Therefore

can we reposition ourselves by thinking about the obvious clearing that is so common in the periphery? We can then consider using and strengthening a shared infrastructure such as access roads, dams, etc to redefine the safety (from natural and human influences) and community aspects. New


informal networks can give a new dimension to living here.

a scenario

new informal networks 6

continues next page

further explorations in four ideas 7

continued from previous page

further explorations in four ideas (contn.) 8

On; community II

shared paths, safer places & new infrastructure


On; community III

The reality in the greater Melbourne metropolitan region is that the periphery is always under threat by new developments. The ever greater pressure on the city is commonly absorbed at it’s edges. In looking how and where we could build within this region one should always question the impact on it’s social, cultural and economic values. Aside from protection and maintenance how do we deal with the harsh realities of the Australian landscape?

peripheral scenario in 2056

potential developable land around St. Andrews 10

Study Area

plan 11

reorganising the habitat


The scheme looks at how we commonly live within the periphery. By building and layering new ideas upon the current infrastructure of the region we should not only be more protected against nature’s will but also strengthen the social, cultural and economic values. The scheme creates small additions to the existing landscape, like

paths and objects, and looks at reoganising the habitat of that landscape through the extended use of clearings and their infrastructure. With the slowness of time this reorganisation can be achieved through planning and create stronger, safer and a more dynamic set of communities. By using planning as a device to reorganize the


physical aspects of these communities we can protect the habitat from the stresses of the metropolitan area and create an additional natural landscape of refuge.

rutger pasman

a network of clearings and minor infrastructure around which new and existing dwellings are organised.


Transitional Habitation viet tuan pham The scheme tests the possibilities of public spaces in peripheral areas in Melbourne. The football oval is a significant public space in the town of Marysville. It is a gathering space for community with a variety of events changing according to time. The periphery of Melbourne is the transitional area between the city and the countryside. People living in these zone are seeking a close-to-nature lifestyle but still rely in many ways on the urban infrastructure of the city. After the fire disaster in February 2009, the town was almost destroyed. The rebuilding of the town should provide new and extra community services and public spaces which have the ability to enhance the everyday life of people and also respond to emergency events. Most importantly, the model of the oval in Marysville could become part of a network of community hubs acting as a regional strategy and providing a new model of civic amenity for contemporary peripheral living.




Site location 15

region of investigation in relation to Melbourne



The combination of community services and sport venue in oval site creates a regional strategy which could respond to emergency, transitional and permanent events. The example of Marysville could be applied to other ovals. They foster the liveability of peripheral Melbourne.





Network of ovals as a regional strategy Scale 1/10.000


Bacchus Marsh



Healesville showground


Kinglake West




Woori Yallock



200 M

Kinglake Centre

Oval Typology Studies 18

These fire paintings by Yves Klein provoke thoughts on the nature of fire and the edges of the oval.

The Burning Man festival in Nevada is an experimental project on temporary community. People camp around a strong centralized space.


The oval proposal takes into account surrounding context such as access to the primary school, access to street and visibility. The edge of the oval could contain several layers of programs.

The oval is like a ring which contains a big void in itself. The edge of the void can be a fire barrier zone. However, the oval should also be connected to the surrounding landscape.


camping primary school football oval sport club

community hall swimming pool

tennis court

community garden

art gallery caravan park



proposal in context of existing Marysville

Public Publicownership onwership


Temporary Housing

Evacuation point

Emergency Services

People back to home


Community Services

diagram of programs changing over time 21

The primary school becomes the first aid center and emergency services offices.

The community hall becomes a communication hub and emergency operation centre.

Fire trucks have direct street access to the swimming pool.


Oval used as camping area for fire fighters and local emergency accommodation.

The sports club becomes public shower facilities and cafeteria.

Temporary accommodation and recreation.

Covered communal space

Large carpark becomes fire truck and service vehicle depot/ short-term caravan and trailer accommodation

Emergency phase 23

The community hub in a transitional stage becomes a great gathering space to share resources such as internet, radio, clothing and food. It can also be used by the adjacent primary school.

Swimming pool can be used by local residents or tourists on a daily basis.

Community garden.


Camping site for events such as Great Victoria Bike Ride, music concerts and sports competitions.

The sports club becomes transitional housing for people who lost their homes. Basic furniture is provided for quick settlement.

Temporary caravan park for local residents or displaced people, and car park for watching football matches.

Transitional phase 25

peripheral living

a rural mixed use micro community prototype simon venturi a scheme exploring a rural mixed use community prototype located on the redundant edges of existing farms on the periphery of dwellings providing housing for local residents displaced by the recent bushfires and those moving from the city (permanent residents) as well as short stay and bed + breakfast accommodation (temporary residents)........supporting Marysville’s existing tourism and farming industries........ ........a series of mixed use micro communities combining housing (temporary and permanent) and recreation (golf course and walking tracks) while maintaining the operation of existing sheep and cattle farms in a reciprocal relationship........residents new to the area rely on the farmer’s ongoing local knowledge and existing infrastructure (water, road and shelter) in emergency situations........ ........a network of emergency collection points, located centrally within each micro community, for use in emergency situations such as the recent bushfires........residents rely on the farmer’s knowledge, farm clearing and existing infrastructure (water and shelter) as short term self sufficient collection points for protection as well as the assistance of surrounding residents in united action and access to additional escape paths if required....... ........single and semi detached dwellings exploring the character and experiential qualities of the periphery.......the nature of inhabiting a site on the periphery of melbourne, the periphery of marysville and the periphery of the farm..........making use of the underutilised edges of existing farms, embracing the winding tracks, clearing edges, direct connection to vegetation, valley slopes, isolation and scale of the rural landscape........ dwellings hugging and burrowing into the slope of the land located along a common road with shared spaces between properties defined by vegetation........communal spaces shared by residents in the same way united action is required in emergency situations........

Marysville cattle farm shed



road cutting through landscape en route to Marysville

view of farmhouse from road

roads cut into the side of hills

Marysville sheep farm house

Marysville cattle farm shed


Marysville journey visibility diagram showing areas visible and partly visible from the main road


dwelling property boundary studies

dwelling and communal road relating to the slope of land


farm clearings in relation bushfire strategy diagrams to edge of vegetation


farm house as community community ‘b’ organisation centred around existing farm

farm house as coexisting buildings

s cwater and roads


faproperty boundaries

farm house as community community ‘b’ property diagram showing adjoining shared spaces

fasite contours

vegetation clearing


marysville combined structure

bushfire strategy diagram showing network of collection points


farm shed as community collection point 35


model photographs showing Marysville’s existing infratsructure in black + proposed road and dwellings in red


Informal water Lan Tian Mappings of the water infrastructure and landscape elements in the Healesville region

reservoirs and catchments

water pipeline infrastructure


creek direction and Sugarloaf pipeline

water management boundary



roads and water

significant landscape and catchment

erosion and inundation

subdivisions to be restructured 40

heritage and water connections

erosion and water bodies

tree cover and wildfire management overlay

flood-prone areas 41

composite map of greater Healesville landscape

Yarra Glen




43 vo


ma ro on da hr es


Thinking about bushfire is inextricably linked to isuues of water and drought. In Healesville, metropolitan water infrastructure comes into direct contact with local topography and environment. How can we better intergrate the interstitial and informal public spaces of water catchment, flood protection and inundation with daily life?

Potential water retention wetlands and informal public space between the water catchment and built up edge of Healesville




Kilmore East-Murrindindi Complex South fire in relation to Melbourne metropolitan edge february 2009 47

supported by the RMIT Design Research Institute

Design Research Institute

The Urban Architecture Laboratory was established in 2002 with the specific aim of providing a specialised research environment for intensive and focussed architectural research that engages with contemporary urban issues. The UAL is part of the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University. Semester 01 /august - december 2009 Supervisors: Nigel Bertram Gretchen Wilkins Simon Whibley Guest Critics; Sue Anne Ware Peter Elliot Sand Helsel William Lim Richard Black

Studio participants: Urban Architecture Laboratory Master of Architecture (research) Rutger Pasman Viet Tuan Pham Simon Venturi Lan Tian Master of Architecture (coursework) Bo David Chu Danielle Douglas Xiang Li Tatjana Lukovska Lucy Maplestone Sergey Pochevskiy Yongpeng Shen Harvey Sy Dayne Trower Ngoc Ton Vu Wolfgang Werschnig Cynthia Yim Brenton Beggs (landscape architecture) Chloe Edwards (landscape architecture) Tristan Smith (landscape architecture)

Studio Details Title: Peripheral Living Tutors: Nigel Bertram & Gretchen Wilkins Pole: Urban Environments Date: Semester 2, 2009 This and other documented examples of design studios run as part of the RMIT University Architecture program can be found on

Peripheral Living Volume 2.  

Project Leaders: Nigel Bertram & Gretchen Wilkins - Urban Architecture Laboratory, with RMIT Master of Architecture (Professional Degree) Up...

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