The Victorian Government has approved funding for the $1.46B Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation project, the outdoor component of which will be designed by Hassell + SO–IL.

Early last year, the Hassell + SO–IL collaboration had won the bid to design 18,000sqm of new public space and gardens including an elevated inner-city park and pedestrian connections.

Commenting on the latest development, Hassell + SO–IL project directors Ben Duckworth (Hassell) and Jing Liu (SO–IL) said the project will help shape how millions of visitors experience the Arts Precinct’s cultural offering as well as this part of the city on a daily basis.

“The objective of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Masterplan is to improve the functional aspects of the existing institutions, incorporate the two new facilities, and invigorate and maximise the public experience in this exciting new chapter of the precinct. It’s about making it work and making it memorable – a new place people want to go.

“This new funding announcement will allow this vision to come to life,” they said.

Part of Phase One of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation project, the new public space will include seasonal gardens, with planting designed by world-renowned horticulturalists Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough (UK), who transformed London’s brutalist-style Barbican Centre and London Olympic Parklands. Key highlights of the project also include new connections and improved access across the precinct, and underground shared services to enable seamless and sustainable operations.

Hassell principal and the project’s design director for public realm, Jon Hazelwood said, “This is an opportunity that can only be realised when the masterplan brings all aspects of the site together – past, present and future – under one strong and connected vision.

“We will explore our deep and meaningful connection to nature by immersing the cultural precinct in dynamic and ever-changing gardens, creating a contemporary civic space and garden that is a destination and attraction in its own right.”

Phase One of the project also includes a new gallery dedicated to contemporary art and design called NGV Contemporary, which is set to be the largest of its kind in Australia.