Riverfront Shelters

Client: City of Maribyrnong
Location: Footscray, Victoria
Co-ordinates: 37°48’10.5”S 144°54’30.7”E
Status: Design Development
Year: 2017
Project Team: BoardGrove Architects, Cardno, City of Maribyrnong
Images: BoardGrove Architects
Words: Brodie Norris

arbor  landmark  landscape  public space  recreation  shelter  

Imagining: Grey clouds barrel in. The mercury takes a tailspin, dropping 10 degrees in as many minutes. Melbourne puts on a melodramatic performance of afternoon hail, thunder and localised flooding, breaking her succession of delightfully warm days. Naturally this happens at the exactly the same time Linh is out for a lunchtime walk along the river.

The typically placid Maribyrnong turns angry, growing increasingly turbid and turbulent and threatening to overflow as a month’s worth of rain falls in the space of a few minutes. Linh runs along the soaked river boulevard towards the riverside shelters ahead, splashing through ankle-deep water. Half of Footscray runs with her, trying to cover under anything on-hand – plastic bags, backpacks and umbrellas inverted by the gale.

They huddle under the sails of the shelters, shoulder to saturated shoulder.

Linh stands next to an elderly man leaning heavily on his walking stick. Behind her, a grocer stands, cradling his box of apples and next to him, a young mother lifts her baby out of her pram, shielding her from whips of cold, wet wind. A group of dock workers in fluorescent yellow and orange outfits mumble to each other. All of them stand there, looking out at the calamitous weather, perplexed. The diversity of this small group is a microcosm of Footscray, a vibrant and diverse community.

Overhead, the steel canopies drape like the fabric of an umbrella, as if succumbing to the torrents of water now gushing over their edges. But the canopies maintain this graceful drape even in finer weather. When families gather in their shade for a birthday barbecue or students play hooky, choosing to lounge in the sun rather than sit through another boring lecture. Or when lovers arrive, hand-in-hand to canoodle as the sun sets.

No matter what time of year these shelters are a refuge.