Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture is a design-based practice with a particular interest and expertise in the field of public domain planning and design. We are a moderate sized practice with a diverse portfolio of work ranging from tiny garden courtyards to city making. The practice philosophy is to always maintain an intimate and critical role in the work we undertake. To this end, we have consistently resisted the pressure to commercialise our practice and dramatically increase our size.
Our methods of working depend upon the focus, intimacy and freedom that our small and talented team of landscape architects and horticultural specialists affords. We often join with architects, urban designers and artists to broaden our skill base allowing us to work in a creative and collaborative environment, and on larger urban projects without sacrificing the specificity of our approach.
The practice consistently seeks to draw, analyse and understand – before we intervene. We cultivate an informed and specific dialogue that speaks to the authenticity of place and its rich cultural associations. We deliberately eschew the development of an overriding practice ‘style’ that would stymie this intuitive and iterative approach.
We are interested in what makes a landscape, in its fundamental elements and characteristics, and how the natural landscape has been overlaid and shaped by cultural influences, ancient and modern. Through research and detailed site exploration we seek to understand the intrinsic qualities of the site as a generator of design.
Detailed design and documentation of the public domain of Campbell Section 5 flowed from the urban design study and community consultation process that establishes a new urban community at the intersection of ANZAC Parade and Constitution Avenue on the edge of Canberra’s Civic centre. Streets and park have been delivered as a framework to development, providing a rational block structure, and immediate amenity for the existing adjacent community and new residents alike. Streets have been designed to prioritise pedestrian and cycle movement under a spreading canopy of street trees. Section 5 is punctuated by a series of detailed plazas leading from Constitution Avenue back into the suburb of Campbell.
The new park provides a range of experiences from intimate ‘play pods’ and exercise areas to open native grasslands, wetlands and woodlands. Central to the open space is a new urban stream that collects and treats stormwater from the whole catchment, providing irrigation for the park and improving the quality of water flowing into Lake Burley Griffin. Overall the public domain sets a new standard of amenity for urban living within the nations capital.
The Lemur Forest Adventure is located at the heart of Taronga Zoo, in the former seal pools. The project brings together play, conservation, education and interpretation through a consolidated experiential journey from one end to the other. It is the first walk through Lemur exhibit in Australia. The design philosophy and brief embraces: Lemur welfare and conservation, play with focus on 8-14 year age group, Interpretation of place, animal conservation, retention and expression of the site context historically and physically.
In designing the exhibit and experience, it was important to overlay and integrate the environment of the Lemurs with the larger cultural landscape of the zoo and the layers of heritage including layout, rock shelves, walls and gardens. New elements respect the heritage layer, and the natural history of the site and region. The needs of the public and the needs of the Lemurs have been accommodated in this shared landscape.
Chelsea Street Playground is a communal backyard for a dense urban community in Redfern, Sydney. At 1045 square metres, it is about the size of many outer suburban backyards, and accommodates the same functions, but for many families at once. It is a communal play area, barbeque, veggie patch, dog lawn, and the place to have friends over for events and parties.
Design responds to the urban context in form, scale, material language and density of activity. A cluster of small structures plays on the form of surrounding terrace houses, creating hybrid forms of a cubby to provide shade, shelter and places for group and individual play. The playground has proved to be extremely popular with the local community – all ages and groups meet here to play and socialise.
This was a design that responded very closely to the site; an exercise in creating a garden that will eventually meld into the natural landscape, requiring a very light touch from the designers. Design explores relationships between natural and cultivated – with subtle shifts across the site to define cultivated areas that belong with the inhabited zones. The garden is a series of rooms within the broader landscape that can be occupied differently according to daily and seasonal conditions.
Some interventions are clear and structure the site through bold lines that draw cues from the natural geology of sandstone escarpments. The design is the product of choreography of different elements and people rather than a strong visible hand of the designer.
The garden will evolve with minimal maintenance; it is resilient and hardy while still providing moments of delicacy and delight. The process of creating the garden has enhanced the client’s perception of their bush setting.
City to the Lake extends the city towards the lake to create a vibrant urban waterfront at West Basin. Dramatically enhanced access will connect the Parliamentary zone and major national and regional educational and cultural institutions such as the Australian National University and National Museum of Australia.
Building on the masterplan and design framework established through the ‘Linking Canberra: City to the Lake – Urban Strategy’ this phase of work saw the detailed resolution and documentation of the waterfront and parklands of West Basin.
The waterfront public domain structured by a strong movement spine laid out on the Griffin’s 1918 geometry for West Basin. Made up of slow speed vehicle, commuter and recreational cycleways, and a generous pedestrian boardwalk, this waterfront system connects Commonwealth Park with Acton Peninsula, and connects back to the city and cultural institutions. Punctuating the waterfront are a series of green spaces and urban squares that accommodate events and everyday community life.