A beautiful architectural installation, replete with a pink pond evocative of Australia’s inland salt lakes, has been revealed as the winner of the NGV’s 2021 Architecture Commission in the Grollo Equiset Garden at NGV International.
Designed by a Melbourne-based team comprising architecture firm Taylor Knights in collaboration with artist James Carey, the installation, entitled pond[er], offers a space for visitors to cool off during the summer months and reflect on their relationship with the environment.
“Through an elegant interplay of architectural and landscape elements, this work draws our attention to the challenges facing Australia’s many catchments and river systems, whilst also ensuring that the design itself has minimal environmental impact by considering the future lifecycle of the materials used,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director NGV.
Referencing Sir Roy Grounds’s open-air courtyards in the original design of NGV International, this architecture and landscape installation comprises two key design elements: a body of indigenous plants and a body of water.
The body of water is coloured pink, making direct reference to the many inland salt lakes in Victoria and highlighting the scarcity, importance and political implications of water as a natural resource.
The installation also includes beds of Victorian wildflowers, designed in association with Ben Scott Garden Design, that bloom at different times throughout the installation seeks to highlight the beauty, precariousness and temporality of our natural ecology.
Envisioned as a space that becomes part the NGV garden rather than a separate architectural object, pond[er] invites audiences to move through a series of interconnected walkways and accessible platforms. Visitors can immerse themselves within and explore the spaces of flora and water and can even step down and wade through the pink pond.
In response to the 2021 competition brief, the materials that have been selected for the project are locally sourced and manufactured, and, wherever possible, are intended to be distributed and used again by various Landcare, Indigenous and community groups upon deinstallation, including the Willam Warrain Aboriginal Association.
Pond[er] was selected the winner from a strong shortlist consisting of Aileen Sage Architects with Michaela Gleave, Listening to the Earth – which explored interconnectedness between people at a time of restricted human interaction; Common + Enlocus, At the Table – an installation offering a sensorial, productive, and edible garden; MDF / Manus Leung + Duncan Chang + Fu Yun, Ring Ring Swing – a playful and evocative installation that embraced the social and communal potential of the swing to foster human connection; and Simulaa with Finding Infinity, Gas Stack – an ecologically minded and engaging installation that evokes both a biotech lab and the vertical city.
“Consistent with previous winners, pond[er] demonstrates the alignment of values of the NGV and RMIT University that continue to underpin our partnership,” said Tim Marshall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Design and Global Context, and Vice-President, RMIT University. “Climate emergency, social inclusion and care for Country emerge through this thoughtful project.”
“RMIT University is proud to be the Design Partner of the NGV and a major sponsor of the NGV Architecture Commission which provides support and recognition for emerging Australian architecture practices, and artists.”
Each year, the annual commission is selected via a two-stage national competition, in which architects or multi-disciplinary teams are invited to submit a design for an engaging temporary structure or installation to activate the NGV’s Grollo Equiset Garden, one of Melbourne’s great civic and cultural spaces.
The NGV Architecture Commission has previously been designed by Yhonnie Scarce and Edition Office (2019), MUIR + OPENWORK (2018), Retallack Thompson and Other Architects (2017), M@ STUDIO Architects (2016), John Wardle Architects (2015).
The 2021 NGV Architecture Commission will be on display from November 2021 – April 2022 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. For more information, visit: www.ngv.melbourne for details.
Image: NGV Architecture Commission 2021, pond[er] – courtesy of Taylor Knights and James Carey