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The landscaped language of collaboration

A project by Hassell, Wildflower Gardens for Good and other First Nations organisations, is blooming and making a real difference to the people who interact with this beautifully landscaped space.

The landscaped language of collaboration

When it comes to landscaping, time makes all the difference. While plants grow and a design vision finally emerges, the people who inhabit an area that has been specifically landscape designed reap the benefits of more natural surrounds, wellbeing and health.

Take the Sydney Airport International Forecourt, for example. Completed a year ago, this revitalised area brings an ecologically rich landscape of a bush setting into one of Australia’s most traversed public places. So much so, that the project received an award this year at the Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture NSW Awards (AILA) in the infrastructure category. While re-vegetating an area such as this and receiving accolades is a wonderful thing, it is the people involved, the process and understanding what is required to create this landscape that are to be recognised and applauded.

Hassell was commissioned to deliver the project and its success relied on meaningful partnerships with several First Nations organisations placing social value at the fore and anchoring each phase of First Nations knowledge from co-design through to ongoing care. Wildflower Gardens for Good, a social enterprise led by Indigenous land care experts, were engaged to install the naturally designed planting areas and provide ongoing care to the landscape.

Roman Deguchi, co-CEO of Wildflower says, “This project is unique in that it allowed Indigenous knowledge and talent to shine at each stage. What this project has created for Wildflower is an opportunity for our people to become Custodians once again, and you can see the benefit of that as this green space continues to flourish.” Deguchi adds, “Long-term partnerships like this one support Wildflower to mature while delivering on our purpose, to provide employment for Aboriginal youths who are facing complex barriers to finding and sustaining work.”

Related: Hassell and GBCA on social value in the built environment

While the benefits are manifold for those engaging with the space, the facts speak for themselves as the area is now lush with more than 12,500 native plants. The design of the Sydney Airport International Forecourt began with prioritising large zones of planting and lawn, covering the site with key paths of travel and central focal points carefully carved out of the planting areas. The result is a 40 per cent reduction of paving areas adjacent to Terminal 1 and a 500 per cent increase of planting and turf, which is already supporting biodiversity renewal.

Jason Cuffe, Hassell Managing Principal and project lead comments, “Guests are greeted with a place that is not only defined by the tones and textures of the surrounding landscape, but also the culture that has cared for this Country for thousands of years.” He continues, “Social value has been a key focus for this project. We are committed to continue strengthening our partnerships with First Nations organisations. Through the ongoing engagement of Jiwah, Imbue Studios, and Wildflower Gardens for Good, we look forward to supporting the growth of the local First Nations design and construction industry.”

Engaging with Wildflower Gardens for Good has helped Indigenous land care experts become Custodians once again, simultaneously enabling Indigenous knowledge and talent to shine and providing long-term employment for crew members. Another collaborator was Gujaga Foundation to guide embedded cultural language and interpretation elements through paving and seating and through all the various collaborations, with the end result, a more natural world within and around the man-made built form.

While working together can create dynamic and beautiful places and spaces within our urban landscape, collaborating on Country and learning from each other is what connection really means. The Sydney Airport International Forecourt exemplifies best practice and understanding in order to create the best possible outcome and may there be many more projects with such positivity for all, as this one provides.




Gujaga Foundation

Simon Wood

Next up: Turning heads in the ever-evolving Parramatta CBD

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