RMIT students learn what it takes to design for Melbourne’s heart

RMIT students learn what it takes to design for Melbourne’s heart

Landscape Architecture students have experienced what it's like to undertake public space design with esteemed studios ASPECT Studio, T.C.L and Aecom. Using the City of Melbourne’s Greenline Project as a case study, students got a taste of what's involved in one of the most significant landscape projects ever undertaken in Australia.

The students were joined by a group from Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU) in China, who made a 10,000km journey to experience the process of public design. ASPECT Studio Senior Landscape Architect Ethan Zhang said the studio represented a unique collaboration between the universities and leading design firms, marking a “wonderful moment” in the field of landscape architecture. 

“The Greenline Project represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Melbourne, and it is exciting to see the next generation of talent inspired by what it will achieve,” he said.  

The Greenline Project aims to revitalise the north bank of the Yarra River, spanning over 4km from Melbourne’s iconic Birrarung Marr to the Bolte Bridge. Through new promenades, parks and open spaces, it will turn this once neglected part of our city into the centrepiece of Melbourne. 

Students from RMIT appreciated the chance to learn by experiencing the design process for something visible and relevant in the city where they reside.  

“Knowing the place makes it very relevant to you, and it made the project fun and exciting,” said Nikolaus Tirtono, who was part of the group of participating students.  

“Having an experience that is close to my everyday life makes it more personal and relatable to the issue and design outcome that can be used.” 

“I feel that my understanding of Melbourne has increased a lot,” said Danny Rathjen, another student on the project. 

“It feels like I have already formed a deeper connection to the specific location I was looking into: the space between Princes Bridge and Queens Bridge.”  

On the opening day students were warmly received by Lord Mayor Sally Capp at Melbourne Town Hall, which was followed by a presentation on the Greenline Project by the council. 

The students then followed a walking tour of the sites involved in the Greenline Project to gain a greater understand of the project’s aims and considerations.  

Competing in mixed teams from RMIT and Shanghai, the students then got to work on designing their own proposals to transform the north bank, working closely with each other to produce alternative visions for Melbourne and the Yarra River. 

Rendered image of Greenline Project, featuring trees and a walkway along the Yarra River. The Greenline Project aims to revitalise the north bank of the Yarra River. Image credit: TCL and Aspect Studios.

“My design idea was looking at enabling access through lighting,” said Rathjen.

“We had a tight schedule, so we had to be flexible in our thinking, finding aspects that need improving or fixing and creating broader strategies and then applying them creatively.

“The experience was a wild rush of designing thinking and creative expression full of collaboration.”

Tirtono said that he learned the importance of collaboration during the project.  

“I feel that just design is not enough but also communicating between disciplines is also important to achieve a better outcome on a project like this,” he said.

“I explored and pushed myself during this studio to find a personal perspective on how I understood the project; by doing this then it becomes personal and relevant.”  

On the last day, the team’s competing visions were presented to a jury of landscape and planning professionals, some of whom had been supporting the students through the duration of their contribution.

The critique was joined by Professor Ling Wang from SJTU and leaders from the industry: Ethan Zhang and Alex Breedon from ASPECT Studios, Sean Song and Lucas Dean from TCL, Lee Parks and Sam Jacob from Aecom and Dr Ha Thai, Associate Professor Katrina Simon and Jock Gilbert from RMIT Landscape Architecture. 

Tirtono said that he found the feedback important in helping his understanding of how to design for public space.  

“Designing for the public and responding to their needs are integral in a project like this, because at the end public space is for people,” he said.

"To successfully design we must listen and open possibilities. Moreover, public space not only benefits locals in its function, but can also affect how international visitors perceive Melbourne, and this is where an initiative like the Greenline Project can shine.”

“People underestimate the power of a properly designed landscape,” agreed Rathjen.

“Enabling a space and creating new ones in way that people need. A great landscape allows people to create their own agency. Empowering people by simply them being in a space is very powerful.”

Tirtono says he remains interested in pursuing public design as a career option. 

“Currently, I am most interested in designing for people on public space, asking questions like how people occupy the space, how they react to it, what outcome can be improved?” he said. 

“However, I’m also mindful about the continuous degrading of the environment happening right now. I would love to combine both aspects and see how it goes!”


Story by: Finn Devlin

08 December 2023


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.