Oxigen + Tonsley
Well Made Supporter’s Oxigen were recently involved in the redevelopment of the Tonsley site. Delivering a bold vision for South Australia’s ground-breaking innovation district, the landscape architects were part of the master planning team and the urban designers for the site that was designed to celebrate the industrial heritage of the former Mitsubishi Plant while creating a unique destination and contemporary public space.
Providing an environment for industry to innovate and grow through connection to research and education and through collaboration with each other, Tonsley is Australia’s first mixed-use urban redevelopment to be awarded the prestigious 6 Star Green Star – Communities certification reflecting the project team’s commitment to creating a smart, sustainable precinct. The site also won the 2015 World Architecture News Award for Adaptive Reuse. We recently caught up with Oxigen to learn more about their approach and contribution to developing Australia’s first innovation district ‘created for creatives’.
Tell us a bit about your practice and how it began.
Oxigen first started in Adelaide in 1996 as a landscape architecture and urban design practice, later expanding to include urban planning, architecture, horticulture and industrial design. We love the inspiration that comes from integrating these design disciplines and having the opportunity to orchestrate a project as a whole. Despite its relatively young duration as a practice, Oxigen are now recognised as one of Australia’s most awarded urban design and landscape architecture practices.
What makes Oxigen unique to other urban design practices? What approach do you take when starting new projects?
Our approach to new projects is always specific to the site, drawing its principles for design from the site context, climate, ecology and people’s use. No two design outcomes can be the same if they are derived from a fundamental understanding of the place and its uniqueness.
How did the Tonsley project come about and why was it of interest? What is the vision for the site?
Tonsley is Australia’s first innovation district and the site is unique – it was one of South Australia’s earliest agricultural farms and then the Chrysler and Mitsubishi car factories. The vision embraces the site’s heritage, extending a lifeline to the ageing framework by reinterpreting the original building to suit its next role.
How were you involved?
Oxigen have been involved with the Tonsley project since its inception and masterplan phase, responsible for planning protocols and urban design guidelines, and the design, documentation and construction superintendence of all public realm components.
Tell us a bit about your design for the site.
Rather than demolish the site’s industrial infrastructure, Oxigen argued to retain it and instead conceived the public realm as a space which celebrates the site’s industrial heritage. The palette unashamedly places emphasis on the built environment through the use of materials such as corten steel, re-used steel, timber and concrete.
All aspects of the site were carefully considered to ensure a coherent approach. We were involved in the design of sustainable water management, movement, wayfinding and signage, lighting, furniture design and public art. The end result is a visually consistent environment with comfortable and inviting spaces to be within.
Why was it important to you to work with local makers and what was the process, including collaborations with local makers?
As a part of the philosophy to retain and reuse, Oxigen worked together with local furniture artist and maker Gray Hawk to transform salvaged trees from the site into bespoke public realm furniture. The beautifully sculpted seats help define the character of the Central Forest and will age and settle in with this landscape composition over time.
We love working with local artists. The outcomes of these collaborative processes play an important role in making places richly distinctive and unique.
Image: Oxigen, Tonsley’s past manufacturing era - the Mitsubishi factory in operation, Photograph courtesy of the Tonsley Park Redevelopment Cultural History Report
Image: Oxigen, Gray Hawk’s recycled timber bench seats, Work in progress, 2016, Photograph courtesy of Oxigen
Image: Oxigen, Gray Hawk’s recycled timber bench seats help ground the garden spaces, 2016, Photograph courtesy of Oxigen
Image: Oxigen, Matt Jonsson’s misting trunks add intrigue whilst supporting the emerging microclimate, 2016, Photograph courtesy of Oxigen
Image: Oxigen, Tonsley – Main Assembly Building Entry, 2016, Photograph courtesy of Oxigen
Banner Image: Oxigen, Tonsley’s Central Plaza with corten installations by Iguana and recycled timber benches by Gray Hawk, 2016, Photograph courtesy of Oxigen