“From a client’s point of view the Lily Pads meet all the criteria in the brief at the highest levels – they ‘belong’ in, and enhance, the surrounding gardens, they add appreciably to the visitor’s experience of the Lily Pond and are proving to be a very functional meeting and event space.
Based on feedback and reactions, the Lily Pads are greatly admired and enjoyed by the Gardens’ 500,000 plus visitors, and have very quickly established themselves as a special focal point; one that combines a strong sense of contemporary beauty with functionality, while seamlessly fitting in to an established landscape.”
– David Reid- Horticultural Coordinator, RTBG
Established in 1818, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG or the Gardens) is one of Australia’s oldest botanical gardens, and one of Tasmania’s most significant cultural assets. Located within the historic Queen’s Domain precinct, the Gardens contains a collection of cool climate plantings of international significance, and house a collection of buildings and other features, some of which date to the conception of the Gardens. The RTBG is a landscape of significance to the Aboriginal and wider community, with its value to the community and the economy being reflected in the Gardens being one of the most visited recreational and tourism attractions in Tasmania.
In 2018, the Gardens celebrated its 200th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, the RTBG invited three landscape architecture practices (two Tasmanian and one Melbourne firm) to compete to redesign the ageing deck structure over the heritage Lily Pond. The winning project would be constructed and officially recognised as the major Bicentenary Project for the Gardens.
The Lily Pond was selected as the site for the Bicentenary Project, due to its status as the most iconic and most visited feature of the Gardens, along with its historical and cultural significance on a broader Tasmanian level. Historically, the Lily Pond was hand dug by convicts during 1850 and operated as one of Tasmania’s first-settlement water reservoirs. It later became a place for passive recreation for the entire community, but it lacked a place to linger and observe the incredible landscape setting. There was a basic deck at the Lily Pond built in the 1970s, but it was ugly, tired and not befitting of the experience of the Gardens.
As such, the competition brief for the Bicentenary Project called for the design of an elegant new structure that would complement and sit harmoniously within the significant landscape setting of the Lily Pond. Programmatically, the new deck structure had to be large enough to hold 75 people for commercial opportunities such as weddings, ceremonies and performances, whilst providing a day-to-day passive space for visitors to sit and view the surrounding landscape.
Inspiring Place came up with a competition entry that celebrated the Lily Pond in its most simplest of forms – the Lily Pad. Driven by the desire to create a design that ‘belonged’ within the landscape, Inspiring Place used the concept of the lily pad to imagine a design that ‘floated’ above the water, while being rooted to the pond bottom, along with providing a platform for the celebration of life, imminently functional, aesthetically beautiful, structurally sound.
Pragmatically, Inspiring Place imagined the new deck structure as three overlapping ‘lily pads’, which reach out over the pond from the nearby pathway level to near water level, with platforms diminishing in size as they near the water. This cascading effect out over the pond would offer visitors differing levels of engagement and outlook to the landscape surrounds.
Inspiring Place were delighted to be selected as the overall competition winner. From the outset, Inspiring Place recognised the broader social, environmental and heritage implications of working within the historic RTBG setting, while understanding the significant exposure that a project of this stature would generate for both Inspiring Place and the RTBG. As such, Inspiring Place avoided the temptation to design a ‘trophy’ structure that would overshadow the setting. Instead, the design carefully considers its relationship to the wider landscape, using cues from nearby natural forms and materials to create a design that is highly refined, and most importantly is harmoniously integrated into the landscape. This approach is also reflected in the fine and rigorous craftsmanship of the timber structure, which utilised CDC precision to create the sunburst decking pattern, and minimal timber waste.
The Lily Pads, recognised as the major bicentenary project for the Gardens, were opened by the Earle of Wessex, Prince Edward, and Tasmania’s Governor Kate Warner. The Lily Pads have quickly become a special destination, and have created a range of new viewpoints to experience Tasmania’s most loved Garden. Beyond providing passive viewing opportunities, the Lily Pads have hosted numerous weddings, concerts, charity events, and performances. The Lily Pads have also received several major design awards, including the 2018 Dangerous Design Award, at the Australian Timber Design Awards, a 2018 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (Tasmanian Chapter) award of excellence in the small project category, and the 2018 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National Award in the small project category.
Project location: Lower Domain Rd, Hobart TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA 7000
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2018