Housing for the Aged: Ryan Street, Hill End

by John Mongard Landscape Architects

A Rationale for a Sustainable Landscape

The landscapes created for public housing are often the lowest common denominator of many factors. At Ryan Street in West End, John Mongard Landscape Architects (JMLA) have attempted to give each resident the type of variety and individual character which we all desire, whilst maintaining a good balance of practicality and maintenance.

A complex of twelve duplex living spaces for elderly aboriginal people, The Ryan Street housing project, clusters around a communal sitting area which is framed by emergent rainforest plants. This universally accessible area links back to each unit through a subtle grading of footpath treatments, which define public from private, and domestic from communal areas.

The car park features drainage pavers, and water is harvested from hard areas throughout the site into dry creek-bed like corridors. This is part of a ground-water strategy which captures emerging subsurface waters from the hillslope and recycles it to plant-supportive areas. Water sensitive urban design principles have been applied throughout the site, from establishment of water catchment landscape units, to the selection of plants and drip irrigation. With a strong environmental mandate, applied finishes are minimal and low-energy materials dominate. Fences are hardwood timbers stained with organic tung oil, and various areas too small for lawns are treated with decomposed granite.

Plantings are based on JMLA�s local knowledge of West End�s endemic species and are all indigenous except one tree selected for its robustness in car park environs. Watering is by drip irrigation to conserve water. Attempts have been made to reintroduce some more rare, local plants that are being lost due to urbanisation of the area. The weed-infested site was cleared and trees protected through collaboration with an arborist. Ancient palm trees planted in the early years of the West End village were carefully relocated as reminders of the past.

Walls and fences play a strong role in defining territories and spaces without creating barriers. A close collaboration with Gall Meddek Architects ensured that each post and connection made a placemaking contribution. Painstaking effort has gone in to subtly differentiate bin enclosures, entry corridors and privacy screens. The philosophy of overlapping vertical planes creates an interesting play in the landscape and claims back the roles, not merely as just of fences and retaining walls and barriers, but as active participants in the visual experience of the landscape.

A strong effort has been made to re-stitch the site back into its neighborhood. This has been done by creating front porches and patios, which relate to the urban streetscape. Gateways feature ironwork created through an art-built-in collaboration with aboriginal art group Pioneer. A large number of public seats are provided so that elderly residents can enjoy the sun and talk in the open. The end result is hopefully a friendly place that has a small village feel.

For Further Information Contact:
John Mongard Landscape Architects
Ph: (07) 3844 1932
Fax: (07) 3844 3250