Bunurong Memorial Park
- ASPECT Studios
Bunurong Memorial Park (BMP), is a new type of place, a multipurpose community facility, cemetery and public park. Located on the edge of Melbourne’s south-eastern urban growth zone, in Bangholme, the Memorial Park is 100 hectares and the central urban precinct is 11 hectares adjacent to the busy Frankston–Dandenong Road.
BMP functionally re-imagines the cemetery, from being a place of memorialisation on private land to being a park that expresses a willingness to provide greater purpose and broad public benefit.
In conjunction with BVN Architects and ASPECT Studios, SMCT’s visioning began in 2014 and was finally completed in 2017. The design for the 11 hectare site includes key buildings, contemporary flexible public spaces and bold landforms set within extensive native parkland and creates a unique community and visitor experience. The campus-like layout of the central precinct comprises two ceremonial buildings, a café, a florist, a play space, Australian wildflower gardens, multi-purpose function rooms, a meditation and prayer building, offices, water features, walking paths, a bridge, picnic area, public art, a lakeside event pavilion, memorial and car parking.
Urban design is well-advanced in urban spaces and CBDs but can struggle to create a sense of community intensity in the suburban fringes. This project delivers a non-traditional urban place to suburbia and is the first of its kind in Australia. It shifts the perception of what a cemetery is, through new organisational philosophy and innovative design. The outcome is a new type of community asset that enables everyday use by the local community, expands the type of events and ceremonies possible for the region, and adds to the sense of place within the outer suburban fringe of south-eastern Melbourne.
Bunurong transforms a flat green wedge within the urbanising environment of south-east Melbourne, isolated amongst freeways and peri-urban land. With built form and landscape devices, the design team moderated the loud and intense roadscape, and south-westerly winds, and contained the park from its broader landscape, transitioning users immediately into an inner sanctum. A series of distinctive Australian themed gardens arranged as a connected suite of intimate and public spaces that are bound by ‘quiet’ buildings with transparent glazed portals that open directly to garden settings.
The central precinct embodies sustainability through carefully located buildings to maximise northern light, while protecting people from the cold south-westerlies and hot northerlies. Bunurong is located in an area prone to challenging climatic conditions, including extended low rainfall periods and extreme heat waves. Water conservation is critical, and all water that falls on site is reused within buildings and for irrigation. Topographical interventions across the landforms limit drainage infrastructure. Plant species were chosen to be climate change resilient, and a diverse species selection makes a resilient and robust landscape, promotes biodiversity and helps protect the landscape from pests and pathogens.
The playground, cafe, walking paths, wildflowers and forest provide many reasons for the community to come to Bunurong. Within the first year of operation, weddings, training seminars, informal group gatherings, individual visits, functions and other celebratory occasions were organised concurrently with and alongside funerals and memorial services. Memorial services have doubled since opening as a result of the building\’s ability to serve the broader communities of varying faiths.