Pleasure Gherkins
Williamstown, Victoria - Australia
Florian Wild

An homage to the reserved hedonism of Victorian era pleasure gardens…

Amidst the tenuous construct with heritage oversight, the tension of between traditional and contemporary was amplified tenfold for this c.1856 Presbyterian Manse. We worked hard to wade through the conservative homage debate – where much of the opinion from the boffins leant towards a direct representation of a colonial era Presbyterian site; unadorned and austere.

Understanding historical architectural context in undoubtedly important – however this debate was agonisingly chained in a literal interpretation of the original landscape of which no record even existed. We also took the view that archaic replication can often produce a worse outcome, and doesn’t offer a true narrative of the site. We supported instead for a celebration of the site’s continued history, one for which a number of records do exist.

There is a misconception that Victorian heritage gardens need to be formal in style. Despite the other implications of colonialism, that era did bring with it a broader palette of plants and styles – we only need look at the nearby Williamstown Botanic Gardens which were laid at a similar time to the construction of the Manse.

Given this context and the cultural phenomenon of utopian pleasure gardens of this era, we allowed ourselves to be swallowed up by sense of reserved hedonism, and unearthed a landscape to suit.