by Lewis Hill

Ideas for the creation of new community assets where quarrying has concluded need not be set in stone.

Turning a disused quarry into an international summer camp and creative space is probably not the first idea that comes to mind but that exactly what’s planned in the Otway ranges. Work is underway to host an international summer camp in February 2023 at the former Beech Forest quarry, but the plans go beyond just hosting an event.

Making the most of a challenging space is something the creative collaborative organisation These Are the Projects We Do Together specialise in. The more challenging the space, the more interest there is in embracing it to create unique spaces.

They take ‘problem’ sites and through architecture, design and embedded education programs reposition them as creative and socially inclusive spaces. This approach has seen them deliver a range of projects at many of Australia’s festivals and develop a collaboration list that includes the National Gallery of Victoria, Museums Victoria and Federation Square.

General Manager of These Are the Projects We Do Together, Joseph Norster, is passionate about the unique opportunities presented by the disused Beech Forest quarry.

“We want to use the repair and rehabilitation elements required for the quarry to drive a creative process with design at its core. We have a 50 to 100 year vision for the Beech Forest site and think about the quarry continuing as a productive space.”

“We are going to host an annual Summer Camp as part of a design education program. Starting next year, we’re hoping to have 120 or so design students and built environment academics camp at Beech Forests for two weeks to help explore the development of the site and what the quarry might become.”

“The landscape, scale and history can help drive the creative process, for example the exposed sandstone quarry elements are something we want to maintain, they add to the integrity of the site and can be used as an education tool.”

There is plenty of designing to do at the site with plans for it to include rain forest walking tracks, a large swimming hole and a 150-seat open-air amphitheatre constructed with quarry stone and reclaimed red brick. The recycling is not just limited to rocks at the site or the location as a whole, the camp site will reuse the National Gallery of Victoria design team award winning Summer Pavilion materials, which was decommissioned in 2016.

“Collaboration and re-use are really important themes for us and we’re interested in what others can bring to the site to build on this development opportunity. We are working with universities and creative organisations but we would love to see even more made of what we can create here, both now and for generations to come.”

“There is a thriving local group of people who are really invested in Beech Forest and what we bring is an expansion of the focus to revive the site and local area. We’re continuing to engage the local community in the plans for the site and it’s a really important element. We’re opening up this space to them as well as others.”

The Beech Forest site is one of four projects receiving a Quarry Transformation Grant to help with the feasibility and planning to turn sites into community assets once rock and sand production ceases.

To learn more, visit the Earth Resources website.

This article was first published in Victorian Connections