From the architect:

Grimshaw has transformed the Meat Market in North Melbourne into a giant installation that wraps around the events at the hub for Melbourne Knowledge Week (MKW18).

Comprising of approximately 1sqkm of fruit netting, the tensile structure has been manipulated to provide an atmospheric experience of movement and light that envelops and connects the programmed events and lively discussions of MKW18.


“Our design takes its cues from the term ‘watershed’, which we’ve interpreted as a collector of ideas, turning points, and breakthrough moments about our city’s future. It’s also an acknowledgement of water as our most sacred and increasingly scarce resource,” says Grimshaw managing partner and MKW18 city design ambassador, Neil Stonell.

Watershed is an exploration of surfaces and movement which exploits the properties of the netting to create a form that stretches, flows, and at times creates a moiré effect within the space. A data-driven lighting projection created by James Berrett and James Marshall from Digital Media Design at Swinburne University activates and illuminates the netting to add further depth to the installation. 

Designed in collaboration with Arup, Supa Dupa Industries, and Swinburne University, Watershed’s form responds to the tight constraints of the site; a one-day bump in, no fixings to any part of the interior of the heritage-protected Meat Market building, and a minimal budget for materials. 

The design team has applied a disciplined approach to incorporating recycled and repurposed building materials, while the 24-hour install limit has required high-level creative thinking and collaboration from the design and construction team.  

Stretching to lengths of 25m at points within the Hub, the netting is connected by rope to existing theatre rigging elements within the interior of the Meat Market. The netting is the only new material to form part of the Watershed installation, and will in turn be repurposed to service local food growers. 

As part of the design process, Grimshaw met with Wurundjeri Elders to gain awareness of the traditional land owners’ principles of sustainability, learning that watersheds, in themselves, are landscape forms that have shaped the social bonds of Indigenous Australians - a serendipitous alignment with the installation’s theme of coming together to share knowledge. 

In addition to the netting, vintage artefacts of hydraulic engineering – enormous wood casting moulds salvaged by Supa Dupa Industries – speak of the scale and purpose of servicing our cities, prompting visitors to think about what this infrastructure may look like in the future. 

Meanwhile, the Tensilation Modular Canopy System created by Grimshaw’s Industrial Design Team and manufacturer MDT-tex, provides a shapely waterproof shelter in the exterior spaces of the Hub.