Cleveland: Bloomfield Street - A Challenging Brief

by John Mongard Landscape Architects

Cleveland Town in earlier days had been located on its scenic promontory facing the bay. In relocating to flatter ground, it became separated from the water by a kilometre of tidal mud and a six metre change in topography. Additionally, commerce located itself out of town, and visitors by-passed Cleveland on their way to the islands.

Redland Shire Council has devoted itself in the last five years to overcoming all these earlier obstacles. The first brief was the civic refurbishment of the town's centre, Bloomfield Street. The second was the creation of a working harbour. The final link was the building of a town square and harbour link, completed in 1997.

Bloomfield Street was a wide country road with humble low scale shops and an avenue of sprawling red Poinciana trees. A masterplan created a ring road around the civic centre, and once this was achieved, the main street was refurbished. In the construction plans created by John Mongard Landscape Architects (JMLA), the wide footpaths have been turned into shade promenades, with plentiful seating and a sculpture and poetry trail to entice visitors to stay and wander.

JMLA's role has been to activate the town's community to achieve loved public spaces which would continue to attract users and visitors. Over a ten year period, John Mongard has been collaborating with artists and poets, and in every masterplan stage a ten percent allocation has gone to the visual and performing arts. The artworks have not been vandalised and this reflects the extent of the communities involvement in the placemaking process.

Community Design

Cognitive mapping and community consultations undertaken by JMLA in the 1980's showed that Cleveland was perceived to be boring for its visitors and lacking in a strong theme or attractions. It also become clear that a strong arts and crafts tradition had built up in the region and that this could be a way of achieving the enrichment of the town's civic spaces. A strong theme was created which focused on the civic landscape as a collaboration of the arts - engendering the input of artists, poets, writers, performing artists, graphic designers and the craftspeople of the region. Kerbs, seats, lights and signs - all the elements of the street have been treated as a opportunity to integrate art into the landscape.

Public Art Trail

In 1993, John Mongard Landscape Architects project managed the installation of eight public art projects as part of the improvements to the Main Street. John Mongard developed briefs and established themes and budgets as part of the civic works. The process created cultural agenda for civic projects in the Shire. Within a year, a new Cultural Development Unit was created within the Council to co-manage ongoing landscape art projects.

Four major sculptural fountains have been designed by John Mongard at Cleveland, each one a collaboration between designers and artists and poets. Over 25 artful collaborations have since been built in the town, each one building on the theme of connecting the town, the bay and the countryside. This has made Cleveland a major regional focus for the public arts. Currently, Redland Shire Council take many tours a year from government, students and interest groups wanting to know about Cleveland's public art and poetry. A cultural tourism strategy has been enacted.

Public art projects have been a conscious mix of commissioned works and community art. Involvement of minority groups has been the focus, with interpretation of Cleveland's identity by Aboriginal people (such as the famous Oodgeroo Noonunccal), by the elderly (through poetry), and by young children (through banners, plaques, poetry and the playground).

Opportunities and Innovations

The main street and the town's main anchor store were badly connected: our aim was to create a visible link with an active heart, comprising of a free-form performance lawn and a sculptural playground.

Previously, there were no facilities for children in the town. John Mongard collaborated with four sculptors to create a themed play area for 5 - 10 year olds, based on the idea of Cleveland as a 'salad bowl'. The playground attracts people across Brisbane for day trips to this facility. The street life of the town has been improved by the opening of outdoor cafes adjacent to the playground, where parents can sit and watch their children frolic amongst the play sculptures.

The Library Square has become a popular destination for teenagers, who love to 'hang out' in the generous paved amphitheatre. The space ebbs and flows, providing a lunchtime refuge for workers, and creating the catalyst for the town's future nightlife precinct.

By 1997, over $30 million worth of new building work had occurred in Cleveland, repaying Council's initial investment into the Main Street by fifteen times. The development has worked into the traditional country town character of Cleveland, with a continuous thread of landscape art binding new buildings to old. Over ten new buildings have been built using the JMLA design guidelines, with continuous paving and landscape treatments, and using the Cleveland range of street furniture, also designed by JMLA. Rental values in Cleveland have been substantially bolstered by the civic improvements, and in 1996 a major Coles development was attracted to the town, thus consolidating the towns regional economic role.

We always hoped that Cleveland could transform itself with great public art and design, and that landscape architecture could be the vehicle to achieve this. Cleveland is a pleasant place to visit and we are proud to have been able to help the town grow.

For Further Information Contact:
John Mongard Landscape Architects
mail@mongard.com.au
Ph: (07) 3844 1932
Fax: (07) 3844 3250