The Grollo Equiset Garden is a Hortus conclusus (enclosed garden) at the rear of the NGV International that dates back to 1967. The challenge of the twenty-first century gallery garden is to serve as an extension to the gallery experience and provide a venue for art, architecture, design and music.
The OCULUS masterplan began with judicious subtraction, acknowledging the site’s rich and layered history while freeing up the ground plane to increase flow and circulation, foregrounding the datum of the tree canopies and framing views. 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 NGV Garden is one of Melbourne’s most successful twentieth-century green roofs, which required careful consideration of the constraints of building on structure. The garden’s design is a collaborative process that will change over time; evolving as the culture of the NGV grows.
Central to the change in the perception of the garden are the large swathes of perennial borders and refurbished expansive rear garden bed. The borders introduce colour, texture, seasonality and pollinators. Consciously drawing on the perennial movement adding a contemporaneity to the garden’s design.
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’ facade and reducing glare as you step outside from the darkness of the Great Hall.
A kitchen garden serves 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 contemporary 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.
Since its completion the refreshed garden has helped to increase and support visitation at the gallery.