The Portable Park concept is one of several in Andrew Maynard Architect’s folio of ideas driven projects and propositions: others are the suburb eating robot CV08 (2008) which rehabilitates degraded suburban areas, a new flag pole for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra (2010) that gives the Aboriginal flag more visibility and prominence in the sightline from Parliament House to the War Memorial, and the Urban Orchard (2009), a proposition for a market garden that meets a range of social, economic and environmental needs. The Committee for Melbourne  set the challenge of designing a transportable park on the basis of the following brief: “To challenge the existing paradigm of inner city/high density living and help reduce Melbourne’s urban sprawl by encouraging more people to live in the CBD or other high density locations through better utilisation of land.”
All Australian cities are facing pressures due to population growth and are challenged to respond to that growth in a way that promotes sustainability. While greenfield development continues, most cities are also planning for more compact settlement. This can require addressing community attitudes, such as resistance to high density environments and the perception that amenity is lacking. In response to this, Andrew Maynard Architects developed the Portable Parks proposal as a way of drawing attention to underutilised land – both publicly or privately owned – in high density environments. Such spaces include laneways, car parks, demolition sites and the like which can be vacant for long periods while the owners consider permanent uses, develop proposals and seek planning permission. Promoting alternative uses while sites are dormant keeps them alive – cared for – rather than allows them slip into blight or decline while also drawing attention to the value of ‘third spaces’ and the finer grain of social spaces and dynamics. It also recognises that such sites are community assets: “Open space is a valuable economic and community resource and is especially in high demand in the CBD and other high density locations.”
Portable Park, Andrew Maynard Architects. Click on image for enlargement. Image: Courtesy Andrew Maynard Architects
The vision presented by Andrew Maynard Architects is that the Portable Park can be established in a vacant space for a temporary period to enhance access to open space, while also retaining currency and expectation of the site itself. The Portable Park is described as enabling social, recreational or cultural engagement within the built environment. The parks are comprised of a series of fold-out modules such as picnic tables, seating and playground equipment which are arranged on instant grass strips. Like other third spaces, this Portable Park is designed to encourage sociability and a sense of community. Image too the passing ice cream vendor or a pop up coffee wagon. While the portable or pop-up cannot replace designing open space into the city, the Portable Park can become a useful platform for negotiating anxieties about higher density living while also considering other approaches to enhancing amenity in the built environment. Importantly, in bringing people together the park can act as a platform for more spontaneous and hopeful forms of place-based grassroots organisation and networking.
1. The Committee for Melbourne looks strategically at issues that impact beyond short term electoral cycles. The Committee brings together Melbourne’s most influential businesses and organisations to work collaboratively to enhance Melbourne – economically, socially and environmentally.