Renowned design teams to create public space for $1b Melbourne arts precinct

Melbourne's $1 billion new arts precinct at Southbank will feature an elevated park, garden and pedestrian spaces to be partly designed by a New York-based firm.

Australian architectural studio Hassell and New York-based design firm Solid Objects Idenburg Liu have been awarded a joint contract to design 18,000 square metres of public space. The elevated park, gardens and other pedestrian spaces will link Southbank's 40 galleries, theatres and arts organisations with the new NGV Contemporary, the revamped Arts Centre and its new Performing Arts Museum.

The design teams are enlisting some serious green thumbs for the Southbank project: horticulturalists Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough, who transformed London’s Barbican performing arts centre, and the city's Olympics precinct for the 2012 Games with fields of flowers. They will create seasonal gardens in the stretch of space along Sturt Street between the Yarra River and Southbank.

The works are part of the $208 million, two-year first phase of the project, funded by the state government. The Arts Centre and NGV have also begun fundraising. The government says the project will create 10,000 jobs during construction, result in 260 ongoing jobs and attract an extra 3 million people to the area annually.

The project follows works already under way to create more green spaces on Southbank Boulevard, which intersects with Sturt Street, outside the Southbank Theatre, Melbourne Recital Centre and ABC Melbourne.

Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley said the public realm works were an important first step in linking main players in the arts precinct and dictating how people will navigate Sturt Street.