The Federation Bells in Birrarung Marr, Melbourne's newest park

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Melbourne’s newest park
wins urban design award

By Renato Pesci, Built Environment Editor

The Royal Australia Institute of Architects (RAIA) conferred the 2004 Walter Burley Griffin Award to Melbourne’s newest park, Birrarung Marr. Birrarung Marr was the city's first new major parkland in more than 100 years when it opened in January 2002. ‘Birrarung’ means ‘river of mists’ in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people who originally inhabited the area, while ‘Marr’ equates with the side of the river.

Located in the heart of Melbourne, the park sits next to Federation Square on the north bank of the Yarra River. It provides a link between the Central Business District and the Melbourne Park sporting precinct and contributes to a continuous green belt of parkland around the city.

It brings the focus back towards the river and has become a space in which people can relax or take part in a variety of activities against a unique and creative backdrop of native flora.

The judged described Birrarung Marr as a stunning example of a 21st century park. The eight-hectare park is the most significant addition to Melbourne’s inner urban parklands network in more than 100 years.

The design was influenced by the site’s natural and industrial heritage and created as an urban space that embraces public activity as a crucial part of the landscape.

Birrarung Marr’s design was also framed around views to Melbourne landmarks, reinforcing the park’s identity as an integral element of the city rather than a retreat from it.

The pedestrian bridge, the shell grit-paved south swale and the Federation Bells add to the rich sensory environment, which promotes the park as a place for casual enjoyment as well as a distinctive setting for public events.

Birrarung Marr was opened nearly three years ago, but mature trees, including 36 heritage-listed elms, make it feel like it has been there for much longer.

The park was created with help from the State Government to remove the 56 rail lines that crossed the area. Thirteen rail lines remain on the park’s northern side.

Birrarung Marr is a vital link in the chain of parks through the city centre that stretches from the Carlton Gardens, the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens, Yarra Park and across the Yarra River to the Alexandra Gardens, Kings Domain, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Shrine Reserve.

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