Finalist 2022

Metro Tunnel Creative Program

Cross Yarra Partnership / Rail Projects Victoria / The Place Agency / Global Arts Projects

The Metro Tunnel Creative Program curates artworks and events enhancing Melbourne city life alongside the construction of the Metro Tunnel.

The Metro Tunnel Creative Program delivers artworks and events to enhance Melbourne city life alongside the construction of the Metro Tunnel. The Metro Tunnel Project is committed to a program of temporary creative works that contribute to offsetting the disruption across our worksites, keeping Melbourne a vibrant and attractive destination as we build this city-shaping project. The focus of the program is to encourage community interaction with construction sites and support local businesses at the coalface between site boundaries and where city life begins.

Design Brief:

The Metro Tunnel Project is due to be completed in 2025 and will include two nine-kilometre train tunnels and five new underground train stations, which will enrich Melbourne’s public places. During construction, there have been significant changes and temporary disruptions to the urban landscape in and around the designated building sites.

The design challenges are plentiful:

  • Provide uplift around construction sites while not increasing congestion
  • Help amplify major city events
  • Provide business support to those impacted by construction
  • Support Melbourne's creative industries such as ACMI, Koorie Heritage Trust, NGV, Royal Botanic Gardens and more
  • Help people easily navigate the sites

Through tactical place making, cultural programming and attentive place management, the program’s objectives are to:

  • keep the city vibrant and moving *think laterally about space and place
  • remain quintessentially ‘Melbourne’ in our approach
  • stay true to local character *keep Melbourne liveable.

This project was designed and commissioned by:

  • Cross Yarra Partnership
  • Rail Projects Victoria
  • The Place Agency
  • Global Arts Projects

Design Process

The Metro Tunnel Creative Program includes a continually changing selection of curated artworks across the five kilometres of hoardings, creative business support and wayfinding, creative treatments on temporary construction structures including acoustic sheds and pedestrian gantries, use of digital technology such as augmented and virtual reality and built infrastructure such as pop-up parks. The program uses a range of commissioning methods such as Open calls, Artist Pool, partnerships, community projects and direct commissions. It has a two tier governance system to ensure fair process of selection and uses expertise selection panels for certain projects. The Artist Pool is one of the main channels through which the Metro Tunnel Creative Program advertises opportunities for creative Victorians.

There are over one thousand creatives registered in the database from visual artists to poets and performers. Monthly emails are sent to the pool with Expression of Interest opportunities as well as networking catch ups and giveaways to exhibitions and events from our art partners. A robust evaluation framework established by Gehl, helps Cross Yarra Partnership shape the program to avoid disruption fatigue. An intensive observational survey with intercept surveys took place in 2019 and the subsequent report by Gehl helped shaped future creative projects such as more emphasis on creative wayfinding, innovative use of lighting to make spaces more welcoming, curating specific areas to encourage ‘dwell’ time or to keep people moving through. A second survey took place in 2022 with a report due later this year

Design Excellence

The Metro Tunnel Creative Program has delivered numerous high quality temporary artworks, activations and temporary built form. A few examples are provided below with many more available on the website.

Albert Road Reserve pop-up park: The Metro Tunnel Creative Program has delivered a temporary pop-up park in Albert Road Reserve. Informed by community engagement, the park features timber decking, generous seating and new plantings to improve the aesthetic and amenity of the reserve.

City Square acoustic shed: The City Square shed was built as part of construction of the new Town Hall Station to ensure noise and dust is contained The Metro Tunnel Creative Program commissioned Melbourne-based artist Emma Coulter to create 'Spatial deconstruction #23 (resilience)' to wrap around the shed on Swanston St and Flinders Lane. Pat Perry, an internationally renowned artist known for his large-scale works across the globe, painted a 90m long, over 20m wide mural on the rooftop of the shed. The elevated artwork pays homage to early Melbourne’s theatre history. Talented local artists from Melbourne studio Juddy Roller installed both works.

NOLA NOLA (North of Latrobe St) is a joint initiative by Cross Yarra Partnership and Rail Projects Victoria aimed at supporting local businesses during construction of the Metro Tunnel Project. The Creative Program commissioned Weekdays studio to design a contemporary look and feel that supports the temporary precinct brand and to improve visual amenity for shops located around the State Library construction site.

Domain Road pop-up park: The Domain Road pop-up park is designed to enhance the local area and bring residents, businesses and visitors together to eat, relax and enjoy enhanced green spaces. Informed by a program of community consultation, the temporary design includes wooden decking, more outdoor seating and more plants.

Design Innovation

As well as providing temporary placemaking activities such as pop-up parks and vibrant artworks on construction hoardings, the Creative Program partners with creative practitioners and cultural organisations to interpret the project in artistic and innovative ways.

This has included:

RISING ‘The Invisible Opera’ Created by Australian multidisciplinary performer Sophia Brous—working in collaboration with celebrated theatre makers Lara Thoms and Samara Hersch and New York choreographer Faye Driscoll—The Invisible Opera was performed in front of the Metro Tunnel acoustic shed in Fed Square and the narrative included commentary around the workers sitting in the Square for lunch and returning through the turnstiles underground.

‘Artefacts’ by Michael Beets Filmmaker Michael Beets approached the Creative Program with a proposal to bring to life some of the stories behind the finds from the archaeological digs. The resulting Virtual Reality film experience premiered at 2022 Melbourne Knowledge Week and will be installed in Metro HQ later this year. It offers a creative lens on the history of the site on the corner of Flinders and Swanston St.

Melbourne Music Week 2018 – ‘Tunnel Vision’ In November 2018, the Metro Tunnel Creative Program arranged access to construction sites so that a local musician could record the noises of piling and excavation. The end result was a two-hour performance as part of Melbourne Music Week held at ACMI. The Tunnel / Vision performance also included an immersive multi-media experience featuring time-lapse of the construction. Tunnel / Vision provided an innovative way of interpreting the Metro Tunnel project – taking the sounds and reinventing them for a new audience.

Design Impact

The Gehl evaluation of the Creative Program focussed on its postive impact to mitigate large scale construction disruption as well as providing invalueable support and opportunities to Melbourne arts and creative sector. The program has been received with resounding positivity from the community, artists, client and stakeholders alike.

In their words:

  • "It brings heart back to the city, reinstates what community means and why and how we love cities - that even though there is the necessity of infrastructure projects, there is something to celebrate and enjoy and experience."
  • "It is a huge support to the arts community. It takes space that could be left blank or sold for advertising revenue and instead supports and showcases artists, promotes the arts in Melbourne and uses the walls to tell local stories."
  • “It gives artists a chance to engage in projects usually not picked up by our regular radar. The Creative Program identifies issues within the city network that artists can solve by creating engaging artwork.”
  • “Programs that facilitate artists in storytelling, and utilise public space, access and exposure to share ideas for social awareness are such an integral part of a growing and progressive city.”
  • “Artists love producing work for organisations that appreciate art. I believe art has the power to uplift people's moods and also inform them of important facts in a heightened, more engaging way. Art can bring life to infrastructure sites, uplifting the feel of the area.”

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

The program factors sustainable tactics where it can. For example, where possible, artworks are painted so as to be zero waste. The outdoor frames on the Franklin St acoustic shed are made from timber from the projec. Where vinyl banners are used, they are upcycled once they have been decommissioned. So far, over 3200 bags (and some bicycle panniers) have been produced from more than 1200 lineal meters of banner delivered. That is around 2500 square metres or approximately 1250kg. Less than 125kg has gone to landfill – which is less than10% of the total amount. The waste output to landfill equals less then 50kg to landfill per annum. The majority of the bags are returned to the artists to sell or giveaway. The remainder of vinyl that cannot be used is held in small sheets for additional use and future design concepts to be developed.

Read more about the upcycling process.

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