An Art Garden for St Kilda

My proposal is for a beautiful art garden over most of the St Kilda Triangle site with a small commercial entertainment building proposed for the area behind the Palais Theatre, as shown on the site plan below.  It s proposed that the site behind the Palais would be leased to a developer chosen by competition, the building would be built and paid for by the developer, and the ground rent from the lease should be dedicated in perpetuity to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the garden at no cost to the citizens of Port Phillip. 

The renovation of the State government owned Palais Theatre is not the responsibility of the ratepayers of St Kilda.  Expressions of interest should also be sought from entrepreneurs or developers prepared to renovate the Palais to a specified level in return for a long term lease.   As this may take some time, the Palais should be regarded as a separate matter that should not delay the design and development of the Triangle site.

The Triangle design must be guided by a vision of nothing less than excellence. It is simply too prominent for its future use to be one of these and one of those, a bit of everything in an effort to satisfy everyone.  We must learn from the lesson of the BBC fiasco. Carlo Catani had a guiding vision for a seaside park for which we are all grateful one hundred years later.  A similar strong vision established Birrarung Marr behind Federation Square, and the Royal Botanical Gardens established at Cranbourne in 2006 consists of over 300 hectares of the most beautiful and imaginative environment of native plants in Australia. 

And what can be achieved in contemporary art terms is amply demonstrated in the beautiful art garden designed by artist James Turrell and his associated landscape architects which was recently completed next to the National Gallery of Art in Canberra.  The Canberra garden shows what high vision and a determination for excellence have achieved on a site much the same size as the Triangle.  Canberra and Cranbourne are designs for specific sites and a garden on the Triangle would naturally be different and specific to the St Kilda environment.

We must be single minded in the pursuit of excellence, avoid a ragbag design with bit of everything, and only accept the very best design in the way the designers and directors of these other gardens have done. I would like to hope that this garden should be of such a pre-eminent design that people coming to Australia will nominate the St Kilda Triangle Garden along with the Sydney Opera House as the two places they must see; we deserves no less.  

Underground parking should be avoided on the Triangle site for cost and climate change (sea level) reasons and only the minimum number of car parking spaces necessary should be provided to amplify the existing (not well used) 440 spaces in the Seabaths and other existing parking around the site.   A beautiful garden would not only be the most popular option, it is also a cultured and civilized choice in the Catani mould.

A garden is certainly the least cost option, and it's also an affordable option that could be built and financed by the council without the involvement of developers or waiting for State government grants.  It would attract people to St Kilda more than anything else I can think of.  It doesn't have to be big, noisy and commercial to be beautiful, useful and successful

I strongly believe we should leave a beautiful garden on the Triangle as a legacy for all time.  The way to achieve this is to commission the best consultants and artists to prepare an outstanding design for community discussion. Consultation processes and writing so-called vision statements are simply no guarantee of anything, much less design excellence.  The vision statement that led to the disgraceful BBC development sounded OK and look what happened then!  Words are simply not adequate to describe something so beautiful that you can't even imagine it until you see it!

Don Gazzard LFRAIA

Triangle Plan Large