The Living Pavilion, Melbourne, 2019

The Living Pavilion (1-17 May 2019) was an Indigenous-led temporary event space that took place as part of CLIMARTE’s ‘ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE’ Festival at the University of Melbourne’s Parkville Campus. Part celebration, part horticulture demonstration and part living lab, The Living Pavilion was a platform for revealing and celebrating past, current and future ecologies as well as hosting events and performances by local Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders, artists, knowledge-sharers and scientists. It featured a landscape design of 40,000 Kulin Nation plants and a program of 40+ events that celebrated Indigenous knowledge, ecological science and sustainable design through participatory arts practice.

The Living Pavilion was the seventh iteration of ‘The Living Stage’ project, a global initiative by Tanja Beer which combines horticulture, sustainable design and participatory arts to transform urban spaces into accessible, equitable and thriving ecological and social gathering places. Sustainability is a key part of all Living Stage projects, which includes the desire to enhance the connectivity and integration of more-than-human places in response to climate change, social inequity, food scarcity and biodiversity loss. Its sustainability mandate has been one of not only mitigating environmental impact, but also of contributing positively to socio-ecological systems where possible.

Part event space, part garden and part exhibition, The Living Pavilion was a call for First Nations perspectives, histories and culture to take centre stage in the face of increasing ecological uncertainty. Over three weeks, the temporary landscape design of over 40,000 Kulin Nation plants transformed an unspectacular University thoroughfare into a haven of biodiverse gathering spaces, Indigenous artworks and ecological soundscapes before being incorporated into permanent landscape works across Victoria. Situated as part of the ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE festival, a key aim of the project was to engage people of all ages and walks of life in the cultural and ecological significance of the region’s native flora and fauna in a fun and accessible way.

The Living Pavilion aimed to forefront and celebrate landscape architecture as an expansive and transdisciplinary discipline that is capable of opening up unique cultural and ecological opportunities that can be shared across communities. The project engaged over 300 participants and experts across Indigenous knowledge systems, landscape architecture and design, ecological science, sustainability, horticulture, visual arts, theatre, music and sound design to showcase how diverse collaborations can sow the seeds of community vitalisation and environmental stewardship.

A key innovation was the use of artistic, participatory and multisensory design elements and programming to illuminate the hidden stories and cultural connections of the University site. For example, the design featured more than 60 exhibition signs (led by Barkandji researcher Zena Cumpston with Ngarigo landscape designer Charles Solomon) which articulated many of the plant’s cultural, nutritional, technological and medicinal uses from an Aboriginal perspective. Another highlight was the reclaiming of Bouverie Creek through a mural design by Yorta Yorta and Gunnai artist Dixon Patten which aimed to ‘daylight’ the waterway piped underneath the site. Sound was also an integral part of transforming the urban thoroughfare into a lush oasis which included several outdoor speakers that recreated past ecologies of the site (e.g. frog calls, creek flowing) as well as the voices of Mandy Nicholson and The Djirri Djirri Dance Group singing in Woi Wurrung language. More information about the project can be found here.

The Living Pavilion recently received an Award of Excellence (the highest award available) in the category of Community Contribution at the 2020 AILA Vic Awards.

Photos by: Isabel Kimpton, Sarah Fisher and Alison Fong

The Living Pavilion Film (5mins)

Project Team and partnership credits:

The Living Pavilion was a co-production and collaboration with Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub (CAUL) of the National Environmental Science Program, THRIVE Hub (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning), the New Student Precinct of the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus, and CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 Festival. The Living Pavilion’s major horticultural and design partners were Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) and Ecodynamics. Other partners of The Living Pavilion included: Next Wave, Place Agency, BILI Nursery, 226 Strategic, Graduate Student Association (GSA), The Living Stage, Garawana Creative, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Sustainability Team @Unimelb.

Producers: Cathy Oke, Tanja Beer & Zena Cumpston

Associate Producer: Jeremy Taylor (New Student Precinct)

Lead Researcher: Zena Cumpston

Indigenous Advisory Team: Charles Solomon, Dean Stewart, Zena Cumpston, Mandy Nicholson, Maddison Miller,

with additional support from Greenshoots Consulting, Murrup Barak and Wilin Centre,

Jefa Greenaway, CAUL Hub’s Indigenous Advisory Group and Rueben Berg

Original concept (The Living Stage) and Lead Designer: Tanja Beer

Assistant Designers: Pia Guilliatt, Camille Greenfield, Zongjing Yu & Zachariah Dahdoule

Design Coordinator: Ashlee Hughes

Contributing Designers: Zena Cumpston, Steph Beaupark

Signage: Illustrations by Dixon Patten of Bayila Creative, research and words by Zena Cumpston, design and production by 226 Strategic.

Graphic Design (Program): Dixon Patten of Bayila Creative (Principal) and Rachel Pirnie (UoM)

Program Partnerships and Events Manager: Cathy Oke

Programming and Event Assistant Managers: Jeremy Taylor, Rachel Iampolski, Skylar Lin, Amelia Leavesley, Marley Holloway-Clarke,

Anita Spooner and Paris Paliouras

Communications Managers: Isabel Kimpton, Nicole Mustedanagic, Leah Hyland, Sophie Hill, Cathy Oke, Kiah McCarthy and Alice Tovey

Communications Strategy and Social Media: Isabel Kimpton

Horticulture design and Propagation Team: Nick Somes, Jeff Beavis, Randall Wee, Adrian Gray, Charles Solomon, Zena Cumpston, Chelsie Davies, Kate Hogan

The Living Pavilion Student Ambassadors: Gabrielle Margit Lewis, Jane Chen, Chelsea Matthews, Victoria Tabea Seeck, Lucia Marie Amies, Mimmalisa Trifilò and Rachel Iampolski

Horticulture Coordinator: Jenny Pearce

Site and Plant Maintenance: Milton Perks

Wayfinding Design and Materials: Helaine Stanley and Andrew Hubbard, 226 Strategic

Research Team: Cristina Hernadez Santin, Tanja Beer, Zena Cumpston, Rimi Khan, Luis Mata, Kirsten Parris, Christina Renowden, Rachel Iampolski, Leila Farahani, Eugenia Zoubtchenko and Blythe Vogel

Financial Management: Angela Bruckner and Siouxzy Morrison

Site Support: Tevita Lesuma, Suzanne Griffin, Louise Ryan (Graduate Student Association), Rob Oke and Lewis Mcleod

Information Booth: Kay Oke, ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 festival crew

Soundscape: Mark Pollard, Alex Beck, Trev Dunham, Lachlan Wooden and The Faculty of Fine Arts and Music (Interactive Composition students)

Co-design Creative Development Workshop Contributors: Judith Alcorn, Margaret Bakes, Steph Beaupark, Tanja Beer, Chelsie Davies, Christina Chiam, Zena Cumpston, Harriet Deans, John Delpratt, Marita Dyson, Michael Ford, Lisa Godhino, Adrian Gray, Cris Hernandez, Joe Hurley, Leah Hyland, Sophie Jackson, Ryan Jefferies, Bronwyn Johnson, Kate Kantor, Alex Kennedy, Amelia Leavesley, Meredith Martin, Luis Mata, Patrick Mercer, Sue Murphy, Cathy Oke, Jenny Pearce, Eleanor Percival, Anne-Marie Pisani, Ian Shears, Robert Snelling, Jeremy Taylor, Alice Tovey and Katie West

University of Melbourne and New Student Precinct Contributors: Georgie Meagher, Alex Kennedy, Mal Abley, Chris Frangos, Tim Uebergang, Dominic Napoleone, Dani Norman, Danny Butt and Mark Gillingham