Yarranabbe Park

Insite recently completed a Heritage Study of Yarranabbe Park (within Rushcutter’s Bay, in Sydney’s east). This was commissioned by the Darling Point Society.

A fascinating site, the history of which has been largely overlooked by locals, tourists and Woollahra Council.

During the mid 1800s consideration by surveyors was being given to the issue of sea access along the eastern side of Rushcutter’s Bay and the provision of wharves.

The Sydney Evening News from the 8th November 1875 contained an article regarding a petition signed by 500 residents urging reclamation of land to the low water mark at Rushcutters Bay for the purpose of creating a public reserve. Also in November 1875 a deputation to the Minister for Lands requested that marsh and the head of the bay be reclaimed and used for public recreation. In 1878 an Act was passed providing for the reclamation of the bay and six acres were set aside for a park. Work commenced in the same year and was completed in 1883.

Yarranabbe Park was formed as a result of the second phase of harbour reclamation works carried out along the eastern side of Rushcutters Bay (the site of the Park appearing to not have been included in the Rushcutters Bay Act of 1878). The Thursday 1 October 1891 edition of the Sydney Evening News contained an article which referred to a deputation from local residents regarding the resumption of a further strip of land on the eastern edge of Rushcutters Bay park for the purposes of extending the reserve.

During 1883, the development of the original ballast dyke seawall around the Rushcutters Bay Park foreshore had been extended along the eastern foreshore of the Bay. The first phase of ballast dyke-edged resumption along the eastern foreshore was complete by 1885.

Plans were drawn up in c.1895 for a new sea wall to replace the dyke wall. The new seawall was constructed in chiseled and staggered sandstone blockwork.







Insite is working on a masterplan for a site in Vaucluse with a 50 metre long battleaxe driveway – being totally redone, as you can see from the formwork. Wait til the cobblestone inserts and Italian pencil pines are in!


Moroccan garden kick-off

20170511_152203Construction has started on Insite’s Moroccan-inspired courtyard in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Wall realigned, pots bought and ceramic tiles going down.

Bare palm trunks and other verticals

Lots of people have reservations about use of palms in their gardens, saying that “all the action happens at the top” and the bare trunks are an eyesore.

One solution is bromeliads.

In your next garden makeover, consider training a massed groundcover of bromeliads up that lonely palm trunk. It’ll be a beautiful eye-catching feature of your garden.

20151217_092234Cooroy Botanical Gardens, Queensland


Another alternative for bare vertical elements in your garden is Sweet Peas. Often grown on a trellis or fence, consider fastening some chicken mesh to a post or pillar (in a sunny spot) and growing Sweet Peas up it. They are gorgeous.

20150912_141649Sweet Peas being training up a light pole from a street verge community garden in Bellevue Hill, Sydney


The colours of the architectural rainbow

All too often residential and commercial streets are made bland via the choice of the paint colours owners select for their buildings. Sydney’s streets commonly ‘comply’ with a palette of colours that stretches the not-so-great distance from beige to cream to mushroom.

A good example is the heritage facade of the former Commonwealth Bank building on Campbell Parade at Bondi Beach. Formerly painted in striking pastel baby-blue and white, in harmony with its adjoining Art Deco buildings, it was recently ‘mushroomed’ over. With the new paint job came a loss in visibility of the aesthetic characteristics of the building and a diminishment of its landmark value.


Where have all the colours gone in our suburbs?

Happily, I happened upon a great little grouping of them today in Paddington, where a stretch of terrace houses have been recently painted in a gorgeous run of harmonious tones. The effect provides a lot of visual value to the streetscape.


Would love to see more of this.

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Residential front fences

Local municipal Councils produce development control plans (DCPs) which act as background for their determinations about development in their local government areas.

These DCPs contain information about various matters, from floor space ratios to percentages of sites required to be ‘deep soil plantable’. They also contain planning and design guidelines about residential fencing – so as to ensure that private property boundary fences (facing both the street and other properties) don’t physically or visually overwhelm the streetscape or neighbour’s lots.

In my landscape architectural and heritage work, I’m very often talking clients away from their desire to create ‘fortified’ boundary walls around their properties. I discuss the many benefits of not enveloping a site with modern day bulwarks, getting clients to consider the streetscape as-a-whole and benefits to passers-by of being able to appreciate the exquisite garden they are just about to install. A ‘portcullised’ mindset can, however, be hard to dislodge.

Whilst Council control guidelines are pretty strict – for both the good of the physical and visual suburban environment – certain aspects of new developments do slip past those guidelines from time to time.

I saw a good example of this recently, on a property where a developer had knocked down a lovely cottage to build a much larger residence. In sync with the new over-sized house came what could only be described as fortifications facing the two streets which the property fronts.


The subject fencing (as seen above) is c.2.5 metres high and totally overwhelms the abutting footpath and adjoining property. Alarmingly, the fence’s scale is actually quite in keeping with the massing of the residence, a house whose compliance with the local Council’s DCP on a range of matters is questionable. That’s another issue. The subject local Council’s DCP says that front fences should generally not exceed 1.2 metres in height and contains various other objectives, including avoiding adverse impacts. Clearly, controls regarding fencing were not rigorously applied to this development.

One contributing factor, which is common to many suburban areas of Sydney, is that most residential streets contain a total mishmash of fencing styles. It’s therefore very difficult for Councils to enforce a design typology unique to a certain locale.

A broader aspect worth mentioning, regarding front fences, is the topic of ‘good design’ – so often overlooked in fencing treatments. In the case of the property discussed above, the architecture of the front fence is left sorely wanting. A nearby fence of a new apartment complex (seen below) shows how a reasonably low front fence/wall, in a modernist style with articulation, can add an interesting visual element to the streetscape, whilst not being in conflict with the street or adjoining properties.


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Clovelly Road Better Block 2014 – Done and Dusted

After a hell-of-a-lot of Council and community engagement and event planning, the 2014 Clovelly Road Better Block streetscape improvement day was a raging success in October last year.

It was organised by the Park to Pacific Association, which is a community group set up to advocate for improved urban design and traffic outcomes for the entire length of Clovelly Road, from Centennial Park to the Pacific Ocean.

Better Block 2014, similar to the 2013 event down the road, was organised to demonstrate some ways the community can make their streets better places to live, work and socialise – with more trees and shrubs, street art, slower traffic speeds, more street furniture and creative public spaces. It is part of a movement that is based around short term action for long term change.

The event had some key aims, which were:
– To trial improvements to a small section of Clovelly Road, which may be made permanent and/ or used elsewhere in Clovelly Road or the City of Randwick
– To show how the street can be beautified (art, trees, shrubs, moveable street furniture)
– To raise awareness of possibilities for environmental improvements
– To promote local businesses by encouraging locals to shop local
– To enhance the sense of place for the ‘Hill Top’ village, where the 2014 event was held
– To bring attention to the benefits of lower car speeds
– To encourage the community to participate into streetscape design and to voice concerns and ideas regarding their local environment
– To foster a stronger community spirit

All in all, the one-day event went exceedingly well and the local community responded almost entirely positively to the majority of elements set up on the day. The Park to Pacific Association move into 2015 with hopes that Randwick Council will pick up on the positive community sentiment evident on and after the event day and incorporate many of the streetscape ideas trialed on the event day in their future planning for Clovelly Road.

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16 super-advanced trees were craned into the ‘Hill Top’ village on Clovelly Road for the Better Block event day

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Council approval was given for two very prominent blank building facades in the event area to be painted with murals by professional mural artists

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The ‘Hill Top’ area, like other commercial areas on Clovelly Road, is almost entirely devoid of public seating. Street Furniture Australia donated a dozen of their products for the event day. These were very well received by both the community and business.

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The footpaths of the event zone were spray-painted using sea and landscape motif stencils and some cute locational logos

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The grand-daddy of all elements installed in Clovelly Road for the event was this semi-permanent parklet.

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Heritage interpretation

The New South Wales heritage office describes that:
“Heritage conservation seeks to sustain the values of heritage landscapes, places and objects, individually and collectively, so that the community and visitors can continue to appreciate, experience and learn from them and about them, and so that they can be passed on to future generations.”
It continues:
“Heritage interpretation is a means of sharing Australian history and culture with other communities, new citizens, visitors, and people overseas. It is also a means of passing on the knowledge of Australian history, culture and values to new generations……….the significance of some heritage items is easy to understand; but the values of others are not obvious and require interpretation. Many items have values that warrant interpretation.”

Heritage and heritage interpretation is, of course, not unique to Australia. Best practice guidelines for heritage interpretation are produced by heritage bodies all over the world – these documents providing commentary on key aspects that should be taken into account when designing interpretation schemes. This includes factors like a detailed understanding of the place or item (historically and culturally), an understanding of the audience and the most suitable interpretation methods based on context.

Interpretation schemes can be developed for all sorts of sites and collections of objects – for example an old building and its grounds that have become alienated from their original setting and context because of modern development.

Most interpretation schemes involve signage at the location of the subject site or item – as this is often the most direct way to tell a part of the story of the place or object. Having said that, there are now, for example, many online apps developed by governments or heritage agencies aimed at making heritage more accessible and personalised via smart-phones.

In terms of in-situ heritage education, the best built interpretation schemes that I see are those that combine signage (whether it be fixed on site or available through scanned bar-codes on your mobile device) with ground inlays or markings that identify the former location of the item.

I recently came upon a very well executed (for want of a better word) example of the above in Poland. When in Warsaw, I walked through a section of the city that contained part of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. This was the largest ghetto in Europe and was established in October 1940 to confine the city’s Jewish population, which in 1939 was about one third of Warsaw’s total population.

As I crossed an otherwise normal road (Franciszkanska Street) near the city’s old town, I noticed an inlay in the pavement – see the image below. This inlay, with inset text, shows the alignment of one of the ghetto’s many high masonry walls. An old photo (also below) taken during WWII shows this wall in place.



Interpretive signage and schemes (irrespective of how well designed, how informative or how unique) can of course only do so much to describe objects or events. An allied matter is that the presence of an interpretation scheme doesn’t automatically mean that a local or visitor will take much notice of it or the place it’s describing. But, better there than not.
Lots of street inlay ‘signage’ is regularly stepped over by locals and tourists alike. So….keep one eye on the ground in your travels and you won’t miss the history that’s marked below your feet.

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Streetscape redesign – Clovelly Road, Sydney

After several months of digesting the outcomes from the October 2013 Clovelly Road Better Block demonstration day, this streetscape improvement concept has morphed into a broader project – called “Park to Pacific” of “P2P”.

Rather than looking at Clovelly Road block-by-block, this arterial roadway ‘re-imagining’ exercise has developed into a more comprehensive urban design idea – to develop a beautification scheme for the entire length of Clovelly Road, from Centennial Park to the Pacific Ocean.

A passionate group of local residents involved in the 2013 demo day (members of whom include professionals in urban design, architecture, arboriculture and landscape architecture) formed a steering committee to advance the cause of this concept. The steering committee has, for the last six weeks, been petitioning local businesses and residents, and most importantly Randwick Council.

The Council has expressed their support for the P2P idea and were one of the three levels of government present at a community presentation day early in May.

The core idea for the Park to Pacific concept is overall streetscape improvement to create a greener, more aesthetically pleasing, more functional, safer and more sustainable Clovelly Road. The detail of this may involve vast increase in street tree numbers, regular ‘bulb-out’ parklets in the roadway (both within and between commercial nodes), definitional road surfacing and markers for the commercial nodes, in-lane bus-stops, rainwater gardens, community gardens, bus-stop libraries and vehicle slowing devices, amongst other components.

The steering committee has presented the P2P idea with a conceptual illustration (below) containing some of the above components.


They have also started developing concept plans for some of the components described above and for complete sectors of Clovelly Road, to help stimulate discussions with Randwick Council and the local community. A roadway parklet concept layout which they have developed is below, as is a photographic info sheet on streetscape elements which they are proposing for consideration.

carspot pod plan

indicative streetscape elements photosIn the upcoming months the P2P team will be having regular community meetings at the Randwick Literary Institute on Clovelly Road and have been designated a community liaison officer by Randwick Council, both to work with the P2P group on Park to Pacific ideas and on the next Better Block demo day (in support of P2P) in October 2014.

For more info, have a look at http://www.parktopacific.org and http://www.facebook.com/parktopacific





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Residential design – 5 tips for getting the most out of your Landscape Architect

There are many reasons to engage a landscape architect to prepare a design for the grounds of your house. The most likely is either that your local Council requires you to have one as part of your development application (DA) / construction certificate (CC) application or that you would just like to add beauty, utility and value to your property with a revitalisation of the garden.

If you plan to put in a substantive development application to Council, it’s likely that they will require a landscape plan to be submitted at the DA stage. For smaller development proposals, a landscape plan may only need to be prepared at the CC stage – a requirement that is often highlighted in a condition of consent approval.

Whatever your reason for getting a landscape plan done for your residence, here are 5 things to remember –

1. Ideas and inspiration. Your landscape architect is going to ask you questions about ideas and requirements you have for the grounds of your property. In addition to coming to terms with the actual brief of the job, they’ll likely want to know things like how you imagine using your property’s outdoor spaces, your mindset about plants and gardens, what stylistic things you are attracted to and whether you like formality or things being a bit rough around the edges. Take a bit of time to think about the above points before you meet your landscape architect – this preparation will help both to guide the design and to ensure that your needs and likes are met.

2. Input and feedback. After giving them your brief, your landscape architect will (if they haven’t already done so) analyse the site and other requirements and then formulate a concept plan for your property. They would then meet with you to present this concept. This is very important, as it provides the opportunity for you to be part of the design process, understand the outcomes of the scheme and tweak it, if required. Changes to a concept plan might eventuate because of ideas you’ve had since your original consultation or because of previously unconsidered matters that arise based on the landscape architect’s presentation. Ideally, you’d have another design discussion with your landscape architect prior to the finalisation of the scheme.

3. Grab the opportunity. If you need to engage a landscape architect as part of a DA or CC submission, I recommend you think of their engagement and the plan they produce as more than just a quick ‘box ticking’ exercise for your local Council. Instead, use the opportunity of the landscape architect’s engagement to have meetings with them and provide your own input and ideas (as above). The aesthetic and functional outcomes for your property will be all the better for landscape planning at the earliest stages of your development thinking.

4. Research your neighbourhood. I encourage clients, as do local Councils, to think about their properties as part of their environs. Regularly in residential design, allotments are treated like islands, with little stylistic reference to neighbouring lots or the streetscape. A good landscape architect, with reference to Council planning documents, will consider things like predominant garden styles in your immediate neighbourhood, mature tree species near your site and matters like how your front fencing selection might visually impact a streetscape.

5. Have a starting point. Provide your landscape architect with a detailed site survey plan. As with architectural design, having an accurate base plan to work from is vital. A detailed survey plan essentially includes the next level up of information from a survey contained in a property transfer. The detailed survey plan would have things like existing trees, paths, service lines and levels information plotted onto it.


Ari Anderson is a registered landscape architect and heritage consultant and undertakes residential, commercial and institutional landscape design projects for clients in Sydney and surrounds.




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