Bruthen Gardens


Bruthen Gardens - A Community Project





Urban Design

Bruthen Gardens – A Community Project

Bruthen gardens act as a place where the community can gather and celebrate the town.

Bruthen Gardens – A Community Project

Bruthen – A site in context

Bruthen is located at a decision point where travellers can choose to turn north towards the Australian Alps, continue along to the far east coast, or head to Melbourne. Most importantly, Bruthen is a special place for the local community.

Located close by East Gippsland’s regional capital of Bairnsdale, the central median gardens are literally and figuratively the heart of the town. A wide carriageway planted with an avenue of Elms and rose gardens, Bruthen is a place of remembrance and celebration.

The gardens also act as a place to stop and pause for visitors who may otherwise pass through the town. These visitors bring much needed economic input into the town and further contribute further to the lively atmosphere in the gardens.

An Opportunity

There is enormous potential to strengthen the ‘green infrastructure’ and ‘urban forest’ principles in the township, contributing to environmental provision, delivering health and well-being outcomes, and providing a space for social connectedness that also brings economic benefits.

The gardens need to suit a variety of needs within a cohesive environment. Accordingly, key elements such canopy cover, species diversity, potential WSUD design, successional planting, cultural considerations, and user delight were considered in the design.

Bruthen has superimposed a grid pattern onto a non-linear landscape. No visible connections are evident to the nearby lush and sweeping floodplains of the Tambo River. Vehicle traffic circulation has turned the gardens into an island in the middle of the town, with few connections to nearby stores and cafes. While western heritage is acknowledged via a War Memorial located by the entry of the town, the long and continuing Gunaikurnai connection to Country and contributions to the local area are less evident in the town’s built form and physical fabric.

The existing Bruthen gardens were unable to accommodate DDA compliance and the variety of desired uses, especially during peak visitor periods such as during the summer holidays and Bruthen Blues Festival.

Following calls to action by the local community, funding was provided by the Victorian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Regional Economic Stimulus and Resilience Grants Funding Program (BRV) to initiate the Bruthen project.

Ratio’s urban design team evaluated the existing spaces and proposed a redesign of the layout, landscaping, and structures within the gardens. Close collaboration with East Gippsland Shire Council, the Project Control Group, and East Gippsland’s Registered Aboriginal Party GLaWAC (Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation) resulted in the creation of three precincts:

  • Remembrance ‒ features renovated Cenotaph adjacent new local indigenous designed gathering space and relocated gazebo.
  • Gathering & Celebration ‒ provides centralised open space to accommodate Bruthen’s important Blues Festival, and community events.
  • Relax & Refresh ‒ accommodates rest-stop picnic facilities and family gatherings, featuring relocated jet memorial, information signage and new plantings.
Ratio’s Contribution

Expanding on pedestrian linkages that are presently restricted throughout the central township area provided scope to encourage greater north/south movement for visitors and local community members. Connections were extended to other flexible public and private spaces, allowing for a livelier main street.

A more diverse planting palette was suggested to create a cohesive mix of local and indigenous species and western-heritage plantings, representing the present social reality of the town. Further consultation with GLaWAC and the local Landcare group was recommended.

New public shelters and flexible amenity structures were proposed, to guide further architectural design. These spaces will allow for multiple uses including public gatherings such as markets, festivals and community meets. The structures will utilise locally sourced timber to reference Bruthen’s history as a timber town, and the integration of locally sourced Bruthen bluestone within specified landscape elements, including pedestrian paths and rock seating walls.

Liz Heath, Tim Biles, and Rechelle Brookes from Ratio took their ideas to the local community, setting up a booth in the gardens on a Sunday morning and inviting the community to share their ideas. The team’s proposals were mostly well received, with a few local residents making special reference to the fact that they were pleased the Elms and Rose Gardens would be protected during the works.

Outcomes for Bruthen

The community are excited to see upgrade works happening, and look forward to having a more usable, greener place.

Following approval from the community, EGSC and stakeholders, Ratio developed detailed designs of the concept and landscape, and road construction is now underway in this pivotal space within the town centre. It will become a true gateway to Victoria’s eastern alpine region and Gippsland coast.

In recognition of Bruthen and the Tambo Valley’s significant local Indigenous history and ongoing presence, Ratio recognised the opportunity for the design to be undertaken in partnership and consultation with GLaWAC. Adhering to the Australian Indigenous Design Charter for Communication Design, the resulting proposed design outcomes include indigenous planting, interpretive signage, and vertical sculpture inclusion.

The western-most entry to the gardens will now feature a yarning circle with feature paving and patterned rock seating in recognition and celebration of Indigenous social connections and custodianship of the area.

In addition, the refurbished Memorial area will feature a renovated Cenotaph that includes acknowledgement of local fallen Indigenous soldiers. This will be undertaken in collaboration with local RSL representatives and GLaWAC elders and community. The design will incorporate expanded seating areas and appropriate planting design to represent the coming together of the two cultural histories.

As a result of this valuable collaboration, Ratio will continue to foster positive partnering connections and develop design outcomes that satisfy the needs and aspirations of all stakeholder and community groups.