National Gallery of Victoria Grollo Equiset Garden


National Gallery of Victoria Grollo Equiset Garden

LocationMelbourne, VIC
ClientNational Gallery of Victoria
ServicesLandscape Architecture
Site Area6,000sqm
Budget$160,000 AUD
Date2015 - 2016

The Grollo Equiset Garden is a Hortus conclusus at the rear of the NGV International, dating back to 1967. The challenge of the twenty first century gallery garden is to serve as an extension to the gallery experience as an expanded cultural destination and venue for art, architecture, design and music, that increasingly targets children and non-traditional gallery-goers. The OCULUS masterplan therefore began with judicious subtraction, acknowledging the site’s rich and layered history whilst freeing up the ground plane to increase flow and circulation, foregrounding the datum of the tree canopies and framing views. The NGV Garden is one of Melbourne’s most successful twentieth century green roofs – as a large public garden, it must perform many roles; needing to be both flexible and legible, creating multiple destinations and large-scale public events. The refurbished NGV garden creates an atmosphere of both enquiry and relief. Simple moves like the temporary installation of synthetic turf and bean bags entice people out into the garden by creating a middle ground, activating the buildings’ façade and reducing glare as you step outside from the darkness of the Great Hall.

OCULUS identified the opportunity for a kitchen garden as a source of produce for the Garden Restaurant and an educative tool for visitors and the restaurant’s chefs. Urban food production is a big focus of twenty-first century landscapes and the NGV Garden needs to reflect this cultural shift. The kitchen garden also adds a more explicit seasonal dimension more domestic in scale. Finely detailed raised cypress garden beds frame the restaurant’s dining area. We collaborated with Andrew Barton and Nuno Gabriel, head chef, on the initial kitchen garden plant selection to ensure a good variety of colour, texture, and flavour. Andrew and Nuno now select the vegetables and herbs with each change in season; the kitchen garden is maintained by the plantsman and the kitchen’s chefs.

Central to the change in the perception of the garden are the large swathes of perennial borders and refurbished expansive rear garden bed designed in collaboration with Robyn Barlow. The borders introduce colour, texture, seasonality and pollinators. We have developed and implements the first stages of a master plan for the NGV Garden which considers its past, present and future – creating an armature for redevelopment that can evolve in a staged, reflective way, delivering incremental change across the seasons. The NGV has so far implemented three stages of the masterplan subsequent staging is to be determined. The NGV garden’s renewal has been made possible by Loris Orthwein passion for gardens.

Image Credit: Claire Takacs