Guildford Lane, Melbourne,
The Guildford Garden began in 2015 as a grass roots initiative by residents, then gained traction in 2016 by leveraging the City of Melbourne (CoM) pilot Laneway Greening initiative. A submission by residents, supported by online voting, saw Guildford Lane receive 1 of 4 Council grants. Working with CoM representatives, consultants, and contractors, the lane was co-designed and constructed over a 2-year period. At the end of 2017 the CoM declared the pilot project complete and a huge success; then handed the lane back to residents to maintain. Two years on, the ‘greening pilot’ has been extended and enhanced by residents, blossoming into a real community albeit public garden in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.
The greening pilot is effectively a community building activity, emerging out of hope and desire for change. Now Guildford Lane feels inviting, yet cooler; graffiti has reduced, foot traffic, property values and the diversity of activity in the lane have all increased. The garden project has transformed a historic city lane, under constant pressure from surrounding developments, into a welcoming green oasis with street art that serves residents, local workers and visitors.
The DPS studio has been in Guildford Lane since 2011. Immediately following the announcement of the ‘greening’ pilot, the garden experiment became a serious passion project for DPS. Katherine has taken the lead. Working with neighbours, she helped prepare the successful submission, then took on the community side stakeholder engagement role to ensure their input during workshops and key design decisions. The project and role are ongoing with coordination of maintenance routines, working bees, fundraising and sponsorship for future initiatives by the ‘Guildford Gardeners’ to ensure the greening is a sustainable initiative long-term.
Key to the successful greening of Guildford Lane has been finding the balance between structure and spontaneity as a coterie of residents and owners emerge to navigate day to day issues. The complexities of a multi-use lane with a diverse mix of residents – from young families in townhouses through to social housing and hostel accommodation, commercial, retail owners and tenants cannot be underestimated. An informal ‘community watch’ mindset is developing, with a tolerance for plant pilfering that is balanced with gratitude for random acts of creativity and kindness. Ultimately, the laneway greening is a capacity building challenge.