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Hilltop stories set in slate

Feb 12, 2018

For two years we worked collaboratively with the local community, the City of Onkaparinga and our creative partners to redesign the High Street and Main Road in Willunga.

We listened, discussed and crafted our designs using the stories we heard to create innovative responses to the town’s natural history, its settlement past and contemporary future.

Walking around Willunga recently, during the Tour Down Under, it was wonderful to watch people enjoying the Mainstreet Project, sitting and standing on the beautifully handcrafted slate walls and timber block seats. We saw people’s curiosity piqued by hidden artefacts and many cycling fans enjoying the shade and relative cool of the new trees and gardens in the baking summer heat.

The brief for this project was deceptively simple - improve the town’s amenity, limit any potential impacts on existing infrastructure, protect the town’s heritage and build support for the project with the community. However, the political nature and history of the project was more complex, making what should have been simple quite challenging.

WAX worked with the local community, Onkaparinga Council, Mulloway Studio, SMEC, CSC, Design Flow and Infraplan to develop designs for High Street and Main Road. We designed new slate gutters and rain gardens that reflected the creeks that carve into the escarpment of Willunga. The slate paving and layout of the project used the historical measurements of the Gunter Chain, a survey device, which was instrumental in the enclosure and settlement of the Willunga Basin. Finally, we designed gardens in the shape of crowns, a whimsical nod to the King of the Mountain status that Willunga Hill has for cyclists around the world.

We added a finer grain of detail; public art, signage, street furniture and historical artefacts. Each element added to the town’s history and storytelling. The numerous features collectively expressed the many conversations that we had with the community. The result is a richly layered public realm, embedded with history, influenced by the community, contextual and yet contemporary.

We understand that change is difficult and the Willunga Mainstreet Project has been no exception. However, the transformation is significant. The patience of the community and the efforts of the Council and the contractor, Camco, is bearing fruit providing Willunga with a unique and lasting landscape legacy.

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