The former Niddrie Quarry has been reclaimed as an infill residential subdivision, Valley Lake Estate for Places Victoria (formerly VicUrban). The site is bounded by the established suburb of Niddrie with significant frontage to Steele Creek. Dramatic cliffs and steep slopes characterise the site, dropping down to the central and focal "Valley Lake".
The lake (reshaped from the quarry excavations) became the focus of the estate and the main open space. It features stone terrace walls and grand stairs down to a timber boardwalk that frames the edge of the lake. Open grass areas are precious on a steeply sloping site – these have been incorporated at the lake edge through extensive use of sweeping retaining walls.
Legibility and readability were critical elements of design around the estate due to the chaotic and disturbed nature of the site. A series of links and nodes have been established from the masterplanning phase to promote visual and pedestrian connections throughout the site. The planting palette for the site utilizes hardy Australian native plants and Mediterranean species informed by the local migrant demographic.
The residential streetscape themes now established are for fully planted naturestrips of Australian native species. Informal copses of trees, and where possible the use of mounding and boulders, aim to move away from the traditional notion of residential landscapes. We hope that the residents will continue these themes in their own gardens, minimizing the use of water intensive plants and lawns.
With few remaining development areas close to the city, the need to reuse highly degraded sites such as this one is paramount. The outcome of the design show that it is possible to achieve excellent outcomes on difficult sites and that more than possible to rival developments of “green field” sites. The creative use of earth shaping, plant material and soil preparation for this site give clear lessons for future workings on “brown field” sites.