Earth Sciences Garden, Monash University

This garden was created to showcase key features of the geology and geomorphology of Victoria and to establish an outdoor teaching laboratory for the study of Earth Sciences. The garden integrates rigorous geological science with landscape architecture and art making in a unique, semi-natural scene that is laden with information. It has become immediately recognized in the scientific community for its innovations in the teaching of geology, creating interest nationally and internationally.

Landscape Design
The collection of rocks is arranged around tracings of the shapes and forms of Victoria’s geological and geographical features. These include the rocky Gippsland and Otway coasts, the western volcanic plains, and the sandy dune fields of the Wimmera Mallee region. The bend of the Yarra is traced in, and the outline of Lake Tali Karng. The artificial landforms drain towards this central cracking clay pan, which holds water for short periods after rain, becoming the ‘lake’. Feature rocks, stone pavements, gravels, mulches and plantings all echo the environments of specific regions of Victoria. Forms and shapes collide, creating difference and roughness at boundaries and edges. The effect is more ‘national park’ than curated display garden.

Rock Collection
The 20 different types of rock, each representative of different formations and geological age, are specifically arranged so that students may map and understand the fundamental geological and geomorphological processes that have and continue to operate in Victoria. The angle, orientation, and specific placement of approximately 500 rock specimens tell a technical story about local geology, while the larger arrangements create a very diverse series of landscape spaces traced from regional geomorphology. Mapping the stones gives students hands-on insights, and experience of working in the field.

The design team worked closely with the staff of Earth Sciences to identify sources of rock, so that the design could best capture rock availability. The design evolved iteratively as rock became available, and was often adapted on site during delivery, to showcase specific highlights, such as the amazing tors of gneiss, one of which weighed in at over 11 tones.

Plantings reflect the unique flora of each region on display and demonstrate the vital biological links between the characteristics of each regional rock type, and the many ecological niches created by diverse geological processes over time. Species were chosen to be emblematic of the various bioregions selected to be represented on the site.

Placed amongst wild-sourced scoria rocks and other volcanic, enigmatic, two-tone ‘bombs’ are located. Crafted by hand and fired for many days in a kiln, these are the rocks of the future, the detritus of the Anthropocene. Ejected from some future volcano, concrete and bricks and glass are melted together, and reconstituted to form a rocky residue; all that might be left of the city in geological time.


Entrant office name: Rush Wright Associates Pty Ltd
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Project Management: TSA Management (Stephen Lindsay)
Planting Design Collaborator: Paul Thompson
Civil, Structural, Hydraulic and Electrical Engineer: Wood and Grieve Engineers
Lighting: NDY Light
Art: Open Spatial Workshop
Cost Planning Donald Cant Watts Corke
Contractor: Australian Native Landscape Constructions
Stone Supply: Pyrenees Quarries
Client: Monash University
Project location (Street, City, Country): Monash University, Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Australia
Design year: 2016
Year Built: 2016
Photo credits: Michael Wright/ /John Gollings/Julie Boyce


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