A collaboration between Melbourne-based practice Taylor Knights and artist James Carey, titled pond[er], goes on display in October at the NGV International, after being named as the winner of the NGV’s 2021 Architecture Commission.

To be located in the Grollo Equiset Garden, pond[er] comprises two key design elements: a body of indigenous plants, and a body of water. The body of water is pink, a direct reference of Australia’s inland salt lakes that highlights the scarcity, importance and political implications of water as a natural resource. The body of indigenous plants features beds of Victorian wildflowers, designed in partnership with Ben Scott Garden Design, that bloom at different times throughout the installation. The flowerbeds seek to highlight the beauty, precariousness and temporality of our natural ecology. 

The commission seeks to blend with the NGV garden as opposed to being a separate entity. Audiences are encouraged to move through a series of interconnected walkways and accessible platforms, with an opportunity to immerse themselves within the spaces of flora and water, even being able to step down and wade through the pink pond.

pond[er] taylor knights james carey

Pond[er]’s materials are locally sourced and manufactured, and are intended to be reused by various Landcare, Indigenous and community groups upon deinstallation, including the Willam Warrain Aboriginal Association.

Each year, the annual commission is selected via a two-stage national competition, in which architects or multidisciplinary teams are invited to submit a design for an engaging temporary structure or installation to activate the Grollo Equiset Garden.

Pond[er] was selected the winner from a strong shortlist consisting of Aileen Sage Architects with Michaela Gleave, Listening to the Earth, which explored interconnectedness between people at a time of restricted human interaction; Common + Enlocus, At the Table, an installation offering a sensorial, productive, and edible garden; MDF / Manus Leung + Duncan Chang + Fu Yun, Ring Ring Swing, a playful and evocative installation that embraced the social and communal potential of the swing to foster human connection; and Simulaa with Finding Infinity, Gas Stack, an ecologically minded and engaging installation that evokes both a biotech lab and the vertical city.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director of the NGV, says pond[er] will shed light on the adversities faced to preserve Australia’s unique bodies of water.

“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,” he says.

Macquarie Group has been named the Principal Partner for the 2021 edition of the NGV Architecture Commission. Their Executive Director, Tim Joyce, says the work brings awareness to rural communities, at a time it is needed most.

“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,” he says.

pond[er] taylor knights, james carey

"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," says Tim Marshall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Design and Social Context, and Vice-President, RMIT University.

The 2021 NGV Architecture Commission will be on display from 29 October 2021 – August 2022 at the NGV International, located on St Kilda Road in Melbourne. Visit the NGV website for further information.