Key Dates

7 March - Launch Deadline
27 March - Standard Deadline
9 May - Extended Deadline
10 May - Judging
5 June - Winners Announced

Waratah Studio - Chelsea Garden Olinda

Image Credit : Decibel Architecture Phillip Johnson Landscapes





Project Overview

Found within the beautiful (Philip Johnson Landscapes designed) Chelsea Garden in the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens, Olinda, Decibel Architecture’s Waratah Studio sits within a breathtaking Australian native landscape. Its geometric petals of Corten steel inspired by and abstracted from the Waratah Flower. The petals of this Waratah are arranged to create a pavilion that sits aloft this native Australian landscape of deep reds, yellows, greens - remnant of the Waratah flower’s pop of colour against a more muted landscape. The pavilion sits at the edge of the natural billabong and creates a beautiful space to rest and sit under the dappled light and immersed within this stunning natural landscape.

Project Commissioner

Phillip Johnson Landscapes

Project Creator

Decibel Architecture


Decibel Architecture
Phillip Johnson Landscapes
Lump Sculpture Studio

Project Brief

Following the success of the Australian Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2013 and its subsequent participation in the 2013 China Flower Expo in Wujin, Phillip Johnson Landscapes embarked on a journey to bring this garden (and the Decibel Architecture Waratah Studio) back to home soil. Through State Government funding, the Chelsea Garden has been re-created in the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden in Olinda and includes Decibel Architecture’s iteration of the original Waratah. Our sculpture sits amongst and above a spectacular array of Australian native plants, trees and flowers, and on the bank of a generous billabong. It’s rusty orange and green-grey frames reference the colours of the Australian garden and signify an abstracted translation of the Waratah flower to a unique geometric form. Whether standing below, next to or afar, the Waratah Studio's form is situated within and as a contrast to its environment and creates a place to ponder, meditate and consider the relationship between natural landscapes, gardens and built form design.

Project Innovation/Need

Due to the constraints of building a sculpture in a newly planted garden, Decibel Architecture sought to dramatically reduce on-site construction through prefabrication that would only require nuts-and-bolts assemblage on site. This ensured an efficient manufacturing process that included laser-cutting the steel petals to achieve the detailed cut-out design and reduce margin of error and material excess.

The steel petals are supported upon four legs which gently twist up from the ground to intersect with the internal frame. To fabricate the complex form, a jig was erected in the factory warehouse, allowing the form and structural connections of the steel members to be tested before being installed on site. Each column is connected via horizontal arms that join using a splice connection, and which provide necessary rigidity for the structure as well as maximum load-bearing efficiency.

Design Challenge

In addition to reducing the on-site assemblage impact, the Waratah Sculpture underwent an iterative design process to explore appropriate siting. The sculpture needed to have a very minimal footprint on the garden, be cost-effective and ensure people did not climb it due to safety concerns. Initially, the sculpture was to be ‘floating’ above the garden via a zip-line. Here, it would be out of reach and embedded in the landscape, yet this has cost and construction consequences. Eventually, we landed on this final design that placed the sculpture above the ground but propped up by four skewed poles. These poles were each coloured according to a pastel palette inspired by the surrounding garden. From afar, the sculpture appears to float just above the garden as the slender poles blend in with their surroundings, thus achieving the original goal but with less cost and intensive construction on site.


The Chelsea Garden is embedded in sustainable principles of water management, education and use of native endangered/threatened species. The Waratah Sculpture sits within this landscape and thus contributes to the social sustainability of the project through the creation of an icon to attract locals and tourists. It encourages visitors to connect with the native plants and wildlife in this incredible Australian garden and to develop a greater appreciation of our environment that importantly thrives and survives in challenging conditions.

The sculpture itself utilised prefabrication manufacturing to dramatically reduce material waste, error and labour-intensive assemblage. The sculpture’s assemblage over just three days meant that the installation drastically reduced the impact on the garden and landscape. Additionally, the sculpture was made in Melbourne by locals Lump Studio, thereby reducing travel costs to the site.

This award celebrates innovative and creative design for environmental projects. Consideration given to materials, finishes, sustainablility and environmental impact.
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