Revealing the layers of the site’s history
Responding to the history of the site was an important requirement of the design brief. The site’s industrial history is clearly visible, having been woven into the new fabric through a comprehensive program of material re-use. The rubble of the Caltex structures now fills the site’s gabion cages, and retained former oil tanks, or the footprint of removed oil tanks, feature in the park’s main spaces.
In acknowledgment of the site’s long Indigenous connections, the park has been given the Aboriginal name Walama, meaning “to return”.
The park design thoughtfully acknowledges multiple layers of use, including the existence of “Menevia”, an 1860s Victorian villa; its long use as a quarry for ship ballast; as well as the Caltex period, dating from the 1920s until 2002.
The footings of “Menevia” were an unexpected discovery, uncovered during early site work. In response, glass display cases have been installed on site to exhibit the domestic artefacts that were found during archaeological investigations.
This responsive design approach, in consultation with the contractor, was used for much of the new work. The design was adapted as new issues and aspects of the site were unearthed during the construction period.
Interpreting history through contemporary art and design
Layers of history have also been interpreted through new works, including landscape design, the design of built elements, sculptural installations, poetry, and signage.
The former location of the site’s largest fuel tank, Tank 101, is interpreted through a new structure using steel reclaimed during the demolition stage. In a statement referencing the site’s fossil-fuel past, the new Tank 101 is a source of renewable energy with eight vertical wind turbines feeding into the grid and providing power for the park’s lighting.
A poem written by Les Murray titled “The Death of Isaac Nathan” is inscribed across a number of the site’s surfaces. Les Murray lived in the area, and the dingos referred to in the poem are the pair of headlands Ballast Point Head and Balls Head. The words are set into the steel sheets of Tank 101 in a dot typeface representing the many rivets of the site’s steel structures, casting shadows on the surrounding surfaces.
Artist Robyn Backen created a four-metre high concrete cylindrical sculpture, Delicate Balance, inspired by the site’s history as a quarry for ship ballast. The sculpture provides framed views of the harbour and looms over the water’s edge, its metal grate floor open to the sea below.
Better performance New artworks commissioned for the park invite people to engage with the site’s history and connections.
Image: Christian Borchert
Leading with sustainable design principles