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An arts superstructure

12 Jul 2016

An arts superstructure Image

You might have noticed that the Testing Grounds site on City Rd is currently lying idly barren.

But there’s no need to fear. The experimental arts space is just in hibernation mode over winter in preparation for a major expansion.

Described by head curator Joseph Norster as a “creative superstructure”, construction will soon get underway on a giant steel grid, which is set to dramatically change the way artists and visitors engage with the space.

The structure, which will take up most of the site, will consist of four purpose-built atriums and a framework for shelter, hanging artworks and distributing lighting, power, data and water.

The four atriums will include a clear cube (observing the process of making the art); a white cube (gallery and studio); a black cube (visual and performance arts); and an open cube (multipurpose, ad-hoc space for anything).

The superstructure has been designed for artists to be able to manipulate the space as much as possible with portable display walls to also be incorporated.

Mr Norster said he was excited to see how people would engage with the new set up.

“We’re really excited,” he said. “It is going to be a very different proposition and we’re really excited to see how people will now engage with the space.”

“The idea is that this will be our last winter hibernation as the new space will provide year-round utility with the bigger and more accessible internal spaces.”

“We hope it will help attract more artist-in-residencies, seven days a week, all year round.”

Testing Ground’s supporter Creative Victoria is currently undertaking geotechnical surveys and soil testing on the site in preparation for construction, which is expected to begin this month.

The new set up will still include a café and bar, while the Fanning St corner will be pushed back to create new public open space with trees and benches.

The City of Melbourne has also been a major contributor to the project having provided 40 new trees, which will create an urban forest at the site.

As part of its Urban Forest Strategy, the City of Melbourne provided the trees to the project to help meet its canopy cover targets for the Southbank area.

In what will be known as the “edge of wildness”, the urban forest will be located along the City Rd edge of the site and act as a buffer to noise and traffic for users of the space.

Mr Norster said the upgrade would mean that it could more productively connect with and provide space for local arts institutions, schools and universities and major events.

He also said that the City of Melbourne’s recent adoption of the City Rd master plan meant that the site would be able to connect more effectively with the arts precinct and the local community.

“The City Rd master plan will also provide a lot of benefits to the site in the future in terms of accessibility, awareness and safety,” he said.

“It’s currently very disconnected from our artistic neighbours on St Kilda Rd so we’re looking forward to having that connection enhanced.”

It’s expected that the site will be officially reopened to the public by November 1.

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