2013 Melbourne Design Awards


Project Overview

“Australian’s are surrounded by ocean and ambushed from behind by desert – a war of mystery on two fronts” Tim Winton

In a former sand quarry, a new botanic garden has been completed, one that allows visitors to follow a metaphorical journey of water through the Australian landscape.

This integrated landscape seeks, through the design of themed experiences, to inspire visitors to see our plants in new ways.

The completion of the Australian Garden comes at a time when Botanic Gardens world-wide are questioning existing research and recreational paradigms and refocussing anew on messages of landscape conservation and a renewed interest in meaningful visitor engagement.

At the Australian Garden, these tensions are the creative genesis of the design. On the east side of the garden, exhibition gardens, display landscapes, research plots and forestry arrays illustrate our propensity to frame our landscapes in more formal manners, whilst on the west, visitors are subsumed by gardens that are inspired by natural cycles, immersive landscapes and irregular floristic forms. Water plays a mediating role between these two conditions, taking visitors from rockpool escarpments, meandering river bends, melaleuca spits and coastal edges.

Project Commissioner

Royal Botanic Gardens

Project Creator

Taylor Cullity Lethlean with Paul Thompson


Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne


Taylor Cullity Lethlean with Paul Thompson

John Gollings and Peter Hyatt

BKK (Gondawana Shelter, Bus shelter and Pavillion)

Irwin Consult

Peter Felicetti

Irrigation Design Consultants

Doug Basich

Peter May

Project Brief

The Australian Garden Completion project, comprises 12 hectares, and completes stage 1 of the garden, which was opened in 2006.

The completion project builds upon the original masterplan and responds to the client brief asked for a design to be an exemplar of design and a mechanism to illustrate to the broader public, the diversity, beauty and creative opportunities of the indigenous flora.

It wasn’t to be a traditional botanic garden based on a scientific classification of plants, or a representative arrangement of various genera. Instead it asked the designers to inspire visitors to see and utilize Australian flora in new ways.

We were interested in finding a way to structure the garden that was intuitive and experiential and didn’t rely on an understanding of the botanical classification of plants, nor rely on a complex wayfinding structure.

Project Need

The Australian Garden Completion utilises bold immersive garden experiences, dramatic sculptural forms, subtle detailing, rich and diverse plantings, to take visitors on a journey into the breadth and beauty of the Australian landscape and flora. Garden experiences such as the Riverwalk, Melaleuca spits, Cultivar Garden, Arbour Garden, Gondwana Garden and the Eucalypt Walk, celebrate and capture some of the quintessential qualities of this vast landscape canvas. Utilizing 100,000 species of flora, some never before seen in cultivation, the garden illustrates the enormous potential of our flora in creating distinctive, bold and memorable garden experiences.

The garden explores how we move through the Australian Landscape and offers insight into a new way of designing Australian public spaces. Walking through the Australian landscape is a journey of constant weaves and jumps. One never travels in a straight line. The flora gets in the way! Visitors are invited into the landscape via a pathway system that constantly morphs according to the landscape narrative and garden experience. Crusty paths in the Gondwana Garden, shift to become over water circular grated plate which connects to a field of stones where the actual path is no longer apparent.

Design Challenge

We were interested in how the garden could dispel preconceived notions of what a botanic garden looks like particularly in Australia, that had, until now often used English motifs and exotic flora.

As a continent that is understood according to the cycle of drought and flood, we structured the garden via an idea of a story of water in the Australian landscape. Visitors are immersed into a variety of landscape experiences, that are cloaked with a diverse collection of Australian flora.

Following the beginnings of the water journey in stage 1 the journey of water continues along the east side of the garden to a designed riverbend, coastal edge and more urban landscape expressions. Along the journey, themed gardens display a diverse collection of Australian flora in a range of designed contexts, culminating in a sequence of gardens that illustrate how our flora can be used in a range of residential and urban contexts.


The Australian Garden Completion Project is a legacy project that will grow and evolve and become a valued educational and scientific institution for future generations. It forms part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne Annex and incorporates this institutions charter for community interaction within a setting that fosters research, biodiversity and scientific collection.

As is the largest botanic garden devoted to the display of Australian flora, the Garden is now host to a vast collection of plants for scientific, educative, and conservation purposes. It plays a vital role in helping scientists and the public understand the history, present day uses and what the future may hold for plants in natural and urban environments. It embraces the importance of biodiversity and our increased understanding of the need to protect species and ecosystems to safeguard the world’s biological heritage.


This award celebrates creativity and innovation in the use of practical, aesthetic, horticultural, and environmental sustainability components, taking into account climate, site and orientation, site drainage and irrigation, human and vehicular access, furnishings and lighting.
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