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Where are they now?
Selfie competition winners, the Merri Stationeers, are grassroots activists in creating better community public space.
They won three yellow Sun Lounges for their entry, “Surfin chicks,” at This Public Life Festival of Landscape Architecture in Melbourne last year.
In the lead up to our next festival pop up park (bigger and better than ever for Canberra in 2016) we check in with Jela Ivankovic-Waters to see how their mission is progressing.
The Stationeers had been looking for seating for their Common in Melbourne’s north-east for more than three years, says Jela, but had not been able to afford furniture to complement their site.
“The lounges add a bright spark that reflects the character of the community, not just any old furniture,” she says.
“They have been used for gatherings, basking in the sun reading and dozing, a restful place for dog-walkers and kids monkeying around.
“I was at the AILA conference in Melbourne 2015, when the competition to win a seat was announced. It occurred to me that this would be an ideal opportunity to make my first ever selfie!
“I pulled in two other landscape architects who live in the neighbourhood to pose as three surfie chicks on the yellow wave-like lounges.
“I think we captured a spirit of fun, as well as our greater cause for the community. I still believe we are worthy winners, no matter how embarrassing it was!”
The Sun Lounges were installed by Darebin Council, with approval from Victrack, in a shady area of the Common.
“The lounges have been affectionately labelled the Banana Lounges,” says Jela.
“Situated amongst tall she oaks and gums, they are positioned in part, dappled shade overlooking an open grass area.
“As the area is used by kids to play soccer, football, cricket and lounging about in, it is a fitting aspect. It is not far from the street, so access and visibility make it safe.
“As a committee we discussed all the possible positions, to fully hash out where the maximum benefit would be derived.”
The Stationeers began in 2008 as a community action group, with concerns about private developers buying up Common areas around railway stations.
Nine years on, the guardians are dedicated to developing the parklands around Merri Station, says Jela, “so the local community feels safer, prouder and can receive more enjoyment from using the amenity.”
Eight local residents make up the committee, working with Keep Australia Beautiful, Victrack & Metro Trains and supported by Darebin Council, Northcote Rifle Club and a Friends network of more than 150 supporters.
“Our committee members come from a number of professions: teacher, government administrator, artist, landscape architect, botanist, environmental manager, community development manager, HR professional, lawyer and paediatrician,” says Jela.
“We are all in our forties and upwards, sharing a common set of values about community wellbeing tied in with community spaces.”
“The lounges add a bright spark that reflects the character of the community.”
The Stationeers have transformed the Common with shade trees and windbreaks (Allocasuarina verticillate) along exposed areas near the railway platforms. They have replaced crushed rock embankments with lush ground covers (Myoporum parvifoilum, Enchylaena tomentosa) and shapely shrubs (Correa glabra, Atriplex cinerea).
Feature specimens of Eucalyptus caesia, E. pulveuelenta, Acer rubrum ‘October Glory,’ Doryanthes and Banksia are planted. An eroded expanse is now a vibrant indigenous grassland with Stipa elegantissima, Themeda traindra, Dianella amoena and Chrysocephalum apiculatum.
“After an excess dumping of mulch in a neglected patch in a thicket of trees, a BMX track has spontaneously emerged and gradually carved a permanent feature for local kids,” says Jela.
“As the area is more frequently occupied in such areas and with ball play and dog walkers in the open grass patches, it is much safer to use for a wider demographic.”
Trained as a horticulturalist amongst “a plethora of amazing plants and geologies” in Western Australia, Jela returned to Melbourne where she established a landscape design and construction business and began studying landscape architecture.
She has an upcoming book about Australian plants in design and art, and is completing a PhD on the role of digital technology in sharing knowledge in design practice, “with the view that plant and other living systems data can feedback into the design of our public spaces.”
Jela says she is able to use her experience to recommend planting types and arrangements to the committee, who also consult with a botanist on the most suitable species to plant for the site’s aspects and fauna.
“We are keen to continue planting so we can can create a rich and diverse environment for the community, commuters and fauna,” she says.
“With additional seating, drinking fountains, art installations and other interactive equipment we hope to engage a wider cross section of the community, to participate and generate new ideas for the space, aka Common.”
With spring upon us and summer on our heels in Australia, the Mall Sun Lounge is a perfect addition to local parks and community spaces.
Available in eco-certified hardwood, woodgrain aluminium, anodised aluminium or a range of bright powder-coated summery shades.
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