Leeds Street Tree Grates
Maribyrnong City Council, Melbourne Water
Footscray, City of Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
$6,500 AU (design only)
30 square meters
Mike Heine (creative director, writer), Steve Jones (creative support), Anthea Lemmer (designer), Peter Hvala (technical director)
Multipro Civil (civil construction), Atlas Fabrication (steel fabrication and galvanizing), AC Laser Cutting (laser cutting)
CPG Australia (urban, civil, and structural design)
Mike Heine, Anthea Lemmer
In 2010, Maribyrnong City Council approached HeineJones to design an interpretive solution to describe the function and intent of a new “rain garden” installed as part of a streetscape redevelopment in the city of Footscray. The project included the planting of 22 trees utilizing principles of Water Sensitive Urban Design. Collectively the trees form a rain garden, a system that uses rainfall to wash the streets, water trees, and filter and cleanse the water before it is fed into the local river.
To work effectively, the interpretive solution needed to be integrated into the hardware of the rain garden and the footpath itself and it had to be robust, safe, and engaging. The interpretive material also needed to be presented at each of the 22 tree sites.
HeineJones’ solution presented the function and intent of a water garden as a piece of simple poetry, laser cut though the 10mm steel plate of the tree grates. Presented in different scales and languages, the urban poems include large words that form abstract snippets of information about the rain garden, with the poem in its entirety reproduced via smaller type.
The intent of the design is to engage the public in an emotive and highly legible way, whereby the passage and movement of the water into the system is through the information itself. To understand the function and intent of the rain garden, the public must engage in the communication in a deliberate and considered way; the very act of reading and understanding the poetry forces a thoughtful consideration of not only its meaning but also the function and intent of the rain garden.
While apparently simple, the design presented many challenges. Engineering requirements, technical limitations, and the challenge of the communication required close collaboration among HeineJones, the engineering team, the council’s Urban Design team, the water authority (Melbourne Water), and the production/fabrication team. The result has been so well received that Maribyrnong City Council adopted the same approach for all new rain gardens across the municipality.
"Walking the dog can be so damn boring sometimes. This makes it way less so and actually might inspire one to think that civic process and its manifestations aren't entirely broken throughout the world."
“The design and fabrication of this project is brilliant and seamless. The pedestrian who walks by is almost literally invited into a dance with the environment, mimicking the natural movement of water.”