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City of Melbourne
The Roundtable
Caption test

The Roundtable is a temporary 7m diameter communal table filled with edible plants located in the Errol St reserve in central Melbourne.  The idea for the project came about during the dark winters of Melbourne’s lockdowns and was borne of a deep nostalgia and longing for the social. The table is the original common space, an object that celebrates coming together, seeing each other, and sharing food. Most cultures include some form of communal surface, to meet around, to eat, to share stories and company. This takes many forms, but the coming together is consistent, a space within the home and the city that serves as a hub in increasingly divergent lives.

Tables are where deals are made, bargains struck, fortunes won and lost. Society operates both above and below the table, with the legitimate and illegitimate defined metaphorically as above or below the 'board'. The enfranchisement of our communities and the ability to participate in decision making is marked by a seat at the table.  The table is the repository of memory – a childhood spent hiding behind the tablecloth – a summer afternoon meal with friends.

This table encircles a productive garden of native and introduced plants intended to be eaten. Plant Species have been selected for their appearance, scent and taste –visitors are welcome to pick, smell and taste the plants, but also to think of others when they do so. 

A larger version of the installation was originally proposed and short listed for the 2021 NVG Architecture Commission in the Grollo Equiset Garden at the National Gallery of Victoria, but was latter adapted to be a public installation in a park in central Melbourne as part of the City of Melbourne and Victorian State Government's City Activation Grant program.

The project will be installed for several months, forming part of Melbourne Open House and several other design and architecture activities, after which it will be disassembled, with the construction materials up-cycled for use in other projects and the plants made available to find new homes with members of the community.

The project utilises digital fabrication methodologies not as a tool of material or tectonic experimentation, but as a method of delivering maximum value with minimum means.  The main body of the table base is made from 18mm marine-grade form ply, cut using a 5 axis CNC router. The assembly process took only a few hours, which significantly reduced the labour costs of the project.

The surface of the table is made from mild steel which will gradually rust over time,  as a symbolic representation of the installation's temporal nature, marking the passage of time and inviting reflection on the ever-changing urban landscape.

The 'Roundtable' incorporates versatile and sustainable elements in its design. The planter beds surrounding the table utilize easily reusable, off-the-shelf pots, reducing waste. The seating around the table, crafted from GRC pots filled with sand for stability, allows them to be de-installed, emptied and then filled with plants from the centre of the table and gifted to members of the community at the end of the installation.

The 'Roundtable' project holds significant social and community value. By activating an underutilized section of public parkland, it revitalizes the urban space and fosters a sense of community engagement. The project serves as a prototype for future landscape interventions, demonstrating how innovative design and construction techniques can be harnessed to generate substantial benefits with minimal financial and environmental impact.

CBD Contracting
RMIT Architecture
North West Precinct Association
Dianna Snape
civic , landscape