Family Violence Memorial
Muir and Openwork share a studio space and regularly collaborate through projects, competitions and speculative research. Our practices are united not only by our previous experiences of working together, but by an attitude to design that tries not to superimpose an authorial signature onto a site, but instead to find simple, powerful and economical ways of teasing out and transforming places for occupation that might not have existed previously.
Through our joint conversations and investigations, the disciplines of landscape architecture and architecture are blurred. Collaboration helps us to leave behind familiar habits and to produce work that is charged by a hybrid vigour.
The collaboration has been fostered by a keen interest in the role of the civic and in the potential of leftover spaces and neglected interfaces as sites for speculation. This allows for small and powerful formal interventions that become embedded in place. Separated from the constraints of “the building,” these responses seek to employ a series of civic and spatial gestures that alter the behaviour of those who engage with the space.
In many ways, the collaboration between our two practices is a threeway dance: all our projects have been in partnership with Phil Gardiner, principal director at civil engineering firm WSP in Australia. This serial collaboration has enabled a direct, shorthand way of working in which engineering and architecture are iterative and indivisible.
The brief for the Family Violence Memorial was highly sensitive and complex. Rather than acknowledging a fixed moment in time, this is a memorial in motion. Its role is to educate, to speak up, to be heard and to provide a space for those impacted by this societal issue.
During the design process, we collaborated with elders from the Wurundjeri, Bunurong and Boon Wurrung peoples. These conversations were led and guided by Indigenous adviser Sarah Lynn Rees in collaboration with City of Melbourne. Layered narratives and learnings associated with the sensitivities of the project’s site and the Indigenous relationships to Country guided and informed the design response.
Our act of collaboration allows for a conversation rather than a monologue and speaks to the power of more than one voice. In this project, the voices that need to be heard are those with lived experience of domestic violence.
Jennifer Jackson and Russell Vickery, representatives of the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council, have been essential collaborators, guiding the design as it has evolved. The voices that need to be heard are those of the Traditional Custodians of the land upon and within which the memorial sits. 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.
In our role as designers, we are facilitators and translators of site or program and of the voices of others.
The act of collaborating, listening and interpreting allows for issues such as family violence to have another voice, another agency and a visibility in a permanent, built form. The project is not simply a design intervention; it is also a formal and a political one.