Changing Laneways

custom-benches-camberwell

KB Kings Jazz Trio

Wave benches, designed by OCULUS, breathe new life into Camberwell laneways.

When the Boroondara Council looked at the dull, service-only laneways in the Melbourne suburb of Camberwell, it saw an opportunity to reflect the character of a community. What it ended up with had even greater potential: a blueprint for laneways that could revitalise the wider municipality.

An initial trial took place in Market Lane, a thoroughfare leading from Burke Road to a carpark, which hosts the Camberwell Fresh Food Market from Tuesday to Saturday each week. “It started as a thoroughfare where traders and the Rotary Club wanted to do something to liven it up and make it more useful “says Boroondara Council Senior Landscape Architect Katie Williams. “There is a lack of public seating in the area, so we engaged Street Furniture Australia.”

Adding character

seating_mural

Artistic mural adjacent to fixed wave benches

One limitation was a lack of space. The narrow path required a design that could run along the wall while still allowing public access. The council required fluid, playful seats that could be customised in a linear fashion to be run along the wall of the lane.

Lanes2life4

Another challenge was the privately owned buildings on either side. The council needed solutions that would make the area vibrant without, say, mounting canopies to the building walls. Instead, local artist Nicole Tattersall was commissioned to create a mural along the theme of playfulness to tie into the relationship with the Camberwell market. She created a colourful storybook mural, telling of two children who go fishing near an orchard and dream of apple pie.

Public consultation

Consultation session

Architectural benches by Street Furniture Australia provide the finishing touch.

The council has also invited the public to offer further suggestions for other laneways as part of the Camberwell Laneways Discussion Paper, which asked the public to consider how the spaces might be used differently or what attributes they would like to see. A survey was mailed to 4300 residents, tenants and absentee property owners within 250 metres of the junction. Information was available at the council office and online, and promoted through traditional and social media. Then in April, a community consultation session was held in the completed Market Laneway with atmosphere provided by a jazz trio and colourful buntings showcasing pedestrian suggestions.

The council collected approximately 450 survey responses. While some ideas were outlandish, such as installing a climbing wall or a regular petting zoo, many liked the idea of public art and plants in laneways. Some suggested amenities such as seating, lighting and weather protection could be improved, and others supported active community events, youth activities and opportunities for local businesses.

Testing ground

Consultation_local band_mural in progress

The consultation in progress with mural painting and music

The Market Lane pilot project helped the Boroondara Council understand some of the issues associated with laneway improvements, according to Williams. With positive community feedback and excitement around subsequent laneway ideas, the council is now looking at a strategy considering laneways across the municipality.

“We’ve only just started looking at the other major centres, so we haven’t calculated the number of existing lanes – but surprisingly, Camberwell itself had more than 50” she says. “We’re not going to be able to do something in all those lanes, but we’ll look at prioritising them and focusing on key locations for future improvements.”

This article was first published by Mahlab Media in Public Works Professional (September – October 2014).

Photo courtesy of Boroondara Council and KB Kings band.


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