Is Arden-Macaulay Melbourne’s next newest neighbourhood?

Image: Groundwater-fed swamp covered with couch grassland and absorbent peat moss which acts as a retarding basin with perpendicular connections across the creek. Image created by Master of Architecture student David Mason.

A few minutes from the CBD of Melbourne lies 144 hectares of underused land. It’s centrally located and easily accessed. So why do so few people live or work there?

This was the conundrum presented to our Master of Architecture students, who together with their lecturers and other researchers investigated the area at the intersection of Arden St and Macaulay Rd. A former industrial site, situated between Kensington and North Melbourne, is ripe for transformation into Melbourne’s newest neighbourhood.

The MADA team worked closely and developed a report for the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC). Our Practice Professor, Nigel Bertram recently spoke with Foreground about their work.

“The government wants Arden-Macaulay to attract people who participate in the ‘knowledge economy’. If we’re to reconstitute this part of the city with water at the front of mind, this could not only solve the functional problems of the area, but provide the high amenity that would make it uniquely attractive on a global scale…”

Any transformation of the area would have its challenges. Arden-Macaulay is low-lying, formerly swampy land, and subject to flooding, particularly if predicted sea level rises come to pass.

“When you look at the clash between the underlying environmental conditions of Arden-Macaulay and its predicted urban intensification, there’s obvious tension. Looked at simply, there is the proximity-based logic of locating the knowledge economy, with transport efficiency and opportunities for day-to-day human contact that inner Melbourne has been very good at. But there are bigger questions here about the underlying scale and nature of these low-lying redevelopment areas – they’re part of the much larger previous swampland, which operates on a different scale and is difficult to reconcile with urban experience. It is connected and impacted by systems beyond the site and these impacts will increase with climate change.”

Foreground’s article on the Arden-Macaulay project – “Reimagining Australia’s ‘temperate Kakadu’” – is online at:

MADA’s report – “Arden Macaulay in Transition – Four adaptive design concepts for drainage and flood management” is expected to be published in early 2018.

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