A pink pond that invites people to contemplate and reflect on their relationship with the environment is the highlight of the installation created by the winners of NGV’s 2021 Architecture Commission. 

Named pond[er], the beautiful architectural installation in the Grollo Equiset Garden at NGV International was designed by the Melbourne-based team of architecture firm Taylor Knights in collaboration with artist James Carey. The pink pond – evocative of Australia’s inland salt lakes – offers visitors a space to wade in and cool off during the summer months.

The installation, which references Sir Roy Grounds’ open-air courtyards in the original design of NGV International, comprises two key design elements: a body of indigenous plants and a body of water coloured pink, alluding to Victoria’s many inland salt lakes while also highlighting the scarcity, importance and political implications of water as a natural resource. 

Beds of Victorian wildflowers, designed in association with Ben Scott Garden Design bloom at different times throughout the installation, seeking to highlight the beauty, precariousness and temporality of our natural ecology. 

Designed to be part of the NGV garden rather than a standalone object, the architectural installation features a series of interconnected walkways and accessible platforms for visitors to explore and immerse themselves within the flora and water spaces.

All the materials used in the commission are locally sourced as per the 2021 competition brief, and wherever possible, are intended to be distributed and used again by various Landcare, Indigenous and community groups upon deinstallation, including the Willam Warrain Aboriginal Association. 

Tony Ellwood AM, director, NGV, said, “Through an elegant interplay of architectural and landscape elements, this work draws our attention to the challenges facing Australia’s many catchments and river systems, whilst also ensuring that the design itself has minimal environmental impact by considering the future lifecycle of the materials used.” 

On behalf of principal partner Macquarie Group, Tim Joyce, executive director – Macquarie Capital said, “Through our longstanding partnership with the NGV, Macquarie Group is pleased to support the Architecture Commission and recognises the importance of this work for the broader community.” 

"Consistent with previous winners, pond[er] demonstrates the alignment of values of the NGV and RMIT University that continue to underpin our partnership. Climate emergency, social inclusion and care for Country emerge through this thoughtful project. RMIT University is proud to be the Design Partner of the NGV and a major sponsor of the NGV Architecture Commission, which provides support and recognition for emerging Australian architecture practices, and artists," Tim Marshall, deputy vice-chancellor, design and global context, and vice-president, RMIT University, said. 

Each year, the annual commission is selected via a two-stage national competition, in which architects or multi-disciplinary teams are invited to submit a design for an engaging temporary structure or installation to activate the NGV’s Grollo Equiset Garden, one of Melbourne’s great civic and cultural spaces. 

The NGV Architecture Commission has previously been designed by Yhonnie Scarce and Edition Office (2019), MUIR + OPENWORK (2018), Retallack Thompson and Other Architects (2017), [email protected] Architects (2016), and John Wardle Architects (2015).

The 2021 NGV Architecture Commission will be on display from November 2021 – April 2022 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

Image credit: Courtesy of Taylor Knights and James Carey