Finalist 2023

Victorian Family Violence Memorial

City of Melbourne / Department of Families Fairness and Housing / MUIR+OPENWORK / Sarah Lynn Rees, Indigenous Advisor JCB Architects / Phil Gardiner, WSP

The Victorian Family Violence Memorial is a place for Victims and Survivors to remember, resist and to reflect.

The Victorian Family Violence Memorial is a place for Victims and Survivors of Family Violence to remember, resist and to reflect. It is an acknowledgment of the immeasurable. No names but individual memories. The Memorial is not simply a landscape intervention, it is a political intervention.

The design has evolved in consultation with the City of Melbourne, the Department of Premier and Cabinet Office for Women, The Victims and Survivors Advisory Committee, Indigenous Advisor Sarah Lynn Rees and Traditional Owners from the Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung and Bunurong and Forced Adoption Practices.

Design Brief:

The Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne partnered to create a permanent memorial for victims and survivors of family violence. This project was required to provide a space for members of the community to gather, reflect and pause. The project was a key recommendation that resulted from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Feedback from survivors confirmed the desire to create a dedicated and permanent space in Melbourne that would allow reflection and healing while acknowledging the devastating and far-reaching impact of family violence. The Victorian Government and City of Melbourne worked closely with the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC) to develop what was a highly sensitive and complex brief.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

The design process developed in close partnership with Victims Survivors Advisory Council, Traditional Owners and Forced Adoption Practices. It met its design brief by creating a subtle, but undeniable presence in the physical fabric of the city. The built Memorial delivers a design that adds ecological diversity, a voice for the unheard and inclusion for all. This process and approach is founded on the way in which the design process is able to look and able to notice:

We noticed the 4-meter grade change from St Andrews Place to Treasury Place and began to wonder if striking a new datum might be a way of making a place for occupation and a place of inclusion. We noticed the strong presence of the Commonwealth Building – a difficult symbol for some people within the Victims Survivors Advisory Council and the Traditional Owners - and wondered if the Memorial might use walls and planting to encourage another place to direct focus. We noticed the space under the canopy of an existing elm tree and the way in which it might invite people to congregate on the new datum in the lawn. The space under the elm is cocooned by textured planting whose flowers and leaves are an everchanging field of purple - the colour of the movement for the eradication of family violence. Finally, we noticed the long view to Fitzroy Gardens, an expansive borrowed vista which gives the site a scale beyond its boundaries.

The final design is framed around five elemental design moves that create a situation of procession, invitation and permission within the existing reserve. We have been mindful that these moves are intended to create tipping points within St. Andrews Place that change the way people behave in the site rather than changing the site character itself.

Design Excellence

The design of the Family Violence Memorial foregrounds an approach for small projects that seeks to intervene gently on a site, using tactics that tip that site over into a new condition, rather than superimposing an alien idea or totalising formal language. It is a space that uses design to create invitation where no such social invitation exists. The Memorial is an instrument which retains site and remakes site all at once. As a design strategy, the Memorial sees excellence as economy over exuberance. In our role as designers, we are facilitators and translators of site or program and of the voices of others. Our job has been to make a space safe.

The Victorian Family Violence Memorial creates accessibility, procession and kindness within St. Andrews Place reserve, using design to change the way people behave in the site rather than changing site itself. A space under the canopy of an existing elm tree invites people to congregate on a civic-scaled fold in the lawn and in a room that is set within the fold itself. This space is cocooned by textured planting whose flowers and leaves are an everchanging field of purple - the colour of the movement for the eradication of family violence - a part of the Parliament Precinct that can’t be ignored. The project is holistic, fit for purpose and excellent because of the way in which it integrates and fuses the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design. The Victorian Family Violence Memorial is indivisible from its site, inseparable from its city and as one with the experience of the public realm. It is a simple statement of presence.

Design Innovation

The problem of the Memorial is the problem of acknowledgement. The design has evolved in consultation with the City of Melbourne, the Department of Premier and Cabinet Office for Women, the Victims Survivors Advisory Council, Forced Adoption Practices, Indigenous Advisor Sarah Lynn Rees (JCB IAAD) and The Traditional Owners of Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung and Bunurong. The design of the Victorian Family Violence Memorial is an innovative way of giving a voice to those whose voice has been muted or ignored. It demonstrates ways in which collaboration with those who are rarely consulted can push a design response beyond the received idea of what a Memorial might look like and how it should work. The community who we worked with is able to engage with the Memorial because they see themselves in it. The wider community must engage with the Memorial, because it located in place where it simply can’t be ignored.

The Memorial’s key refrain: “Ngarru biik marrna Guliny dillbadin. Lore of the land keeps People safe.”, manifested from conversations with the Traditional Custodians and is translated on the site in Woi Wurrung language. This statement is the introduction to the Memorial and is imprinted on the lip of the smoking vessel in traditional language. The vessel will facilitate Indigenous cultural practices and remind visitors of their responsibility to look after Country and community. Prior to construction commencing, a smoking ceremony was held at the future location of the smoking vessel and ashes from the ceremony were added into the concrete mix for the precast decking, setting memory, cleansing and wellbeing into the fabric of place.

This is the first public Memorial in the City of Melbourne to embed a smoking vessel that will facilitate Indigenous cultural practices and that reminds visitors of their responsibility to look after Country.

Design Impact

The Victorian Family Violence Memorial is arranged around human connection and social impact. In embedding itself within the landform of a small civic reserve, the Memorial has added a new and positive dimension to community use and the collective experience of public space. The Memorial creates a place of pause and intimacy, while allowing people to feel connected to the broader parklands of Fitzroy Gardens beyond. It delivers multiple strategic outcomes by adding ecological diversity and being inclusive for all.

This is not simply a landscape intervention. This is a formal and political intervention. The colour of the garden is signifier of the Memorial’s cause – the purple ribbon movement for the elimination of violence against women, and the elimination of family violence. The figure is formed through an array of plant species that will flower with purple at different times of the year – an ever changing and never-changing presence in the city. We see this planting not only as picturesque, but something that is an irritant as well – the Memorial’s presence in the space and in the wider Parliament Precinct is something that can’t be ignored. It sits in the daily life of the city as reminder and admonition.

The Memorial is a design intervention that transforms its site using strategies that have minimal impact on Country. The design privileged local suppliers and is constructed from 2 building materials: steel and concrete. The use of steel was minimised through a rigorous shop drawing process that ensured maximum use of standard plates, with excess being recycled. The functional lifespan of the steel has been extended using cathodic protection for all walls.

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