Farley Piazza

Stanthorpe, Queensland, 2001-2003 by John Mongard Landscape Architects

A Town Square for All Seasons in the coldest town in Queensland

The Piazza created a focal point for Stanthorpe Town Centre by creating a town square out of a dead end street. The design provides for shade during the hot summer months and for sun and wind protection for the cold season. The Piazza has a performance stage at the far end, with seating to its sunny side and a path through to an amenity block on the other side. The layout includes different hard and soft surfaces and playful items such as granite boulders. The design for the space was generated through extensive community consultation and includes the work of six local artists. The Piazza provides an additional activity space for the Apple and Grape Festival.

What was the trigger for starting the project?

Early consultation about the future of the town centre indicated that residents felt that there was not enough greenery and "street decoration" and that the central business district needed a distinctive image. The Council's Economic Development Strategy - Vision 2001, also recognised the importance of having a viable, attractive and convenient town centre. JMLA was approached by the Council to develop an integrated design for the first stage of works, intended to eventually lead to the revitalization of the entire main street. Farley Street was targeted as a key point central in the main street and was highlighted as a potential focus for community activity and a meeting place for informal interaction. The Stanthorpe Shire Council engaged JMLA specifically for their record in community consultation. The main street project in now in its second stage and Farley Piazza is considered a great success by the community.

Community engagement

Farley Street was closed for a week to car access and JMLA 'Set-up Shop' in a demountable shed in the middle of the space. The community, through advertisements and word-of-mouth, were asked to come and discuss their ideas and visions. These were written on butchers paper and pinned up around the room to engage discussion. Various forums and meetings were also held across the week including a community meeting, arts & crafts meeting, and consultations involving Council staff who were then involved in the implementation and maintenance of the design. Through this process over 200 community members where consulted. With the help of the Community Artist engaged by JMLA, briefs were written for the artworks and expressions of interest were sought. A competition was implemented to find an artist to make the central piece for the Square - The Roll Up Tree. The final concept design was taken back to the community for comment. A post-occupancy evaluation was undertaken as part of the commencement of stage two works.

Benefits/Outcomes

The long-term goal of the project was to improve the economic performance of the town centre which will have a flow-on effect to the entire community. More measurable outcomes include a new civic space used extensively for gatherings and for lunch breaks for residents. The final design included the involvement of eight artists on five different projects. School students from two different high schools were asked to extend their normal curriculum to include the construction of seven timber benches and four street lights. One of the underestimated outcomes was the upskilling of Council staff and the enormous pride they felt for the project. This is primarily because they were a small team who were left, within reason, on their own to resolve the day-to-day issues. The community participated extensively in the design process and have come forth again to be included in the process for the next stage of the streetscape works.

Project implementation

The Council constructed and managed the design in collaboration with JMLA as Public Art Project Manager. Furniture was designed with the Council's workshop capacity in mind. A local contractor was engaged to complete elements that where outside the Council's scope, including the laying of the stone work. The initial consultation began in July, 2001, the Piazza was officially opened on the 7th of September,2002 by the Minister for Local Government and Planning, Nita Cunningham.

Obstacles

The existing service infrastructure was aging and was in need of replacement. This consumed a lot of the total budget. The initial funding put aside was not enough to cover the estimated costs of the project. However, after detailed budgeting was completed, further funding was allocated to the project. This particular area of the main street is surrounded by pubs and in the past have had a lot of vandalism issues. All furniture had to be sturdy, and community ownership was an imperative.

Resources

The total cost of the project was \$272,928. A grant was received for RLIP funding for \$100,000. Ergon Energy through the Community Powerlines Projects subsidized the relocation of the transformer and the undergrounding of some power lines. The funding was on a dollar-for-dollar basis. A local hail netting supplier provided materials and some labour to construct the shelter. Students from the local high school received money for the materials and supplied the labour for the benches and the lights. All of the labour for the project was sourced locally and local materials were used wherever possible.

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