Rarefied Land

Picturesque landscape-inspired coastal walk with shelters

Project date


Project location

Point Nepean, Australia


University of Melbourne

Trapped in time by its own past—the military exercises once carried out on this strategic peninsula left the land scarred, hazardous and out-of-bounds for decades.  The north side of the peninsula faces the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay, but the south faces out to the tumultuous waters of the Bass Strait. This project examined reopening the dramatic south side of the peninsula with a choreographed walk inspired by set design and the classic picturesque landscape act of controlled vista and reveal. 


Heavily influenced by the existing military defensive structures throughout the area,  a series of modern follies populate the route providing rest stops, shelters and gathering spaces—the landscape itself becomes the stage as opposed to the backdrop.


Using a combination of existing dirt roadways and pathways beaten through the bush by wildlife, the route picks out strategic locations for their natural terrain - some creating introverted worlds, and others directing attention to distant views. The follies tread a fine line between function and play, providing refuge from the beating Australian sun but also appearing one way on initial sighting, but turning out to be quite another on closer inspection.


Extensive survey work was conducted on not only the physical, but the temporal characteristics of the landscape in the area. Maps quantifying view, sounds and intensity of vegetation were generated to build a true sense of what this land had become in the previous decades without human influence.


The decaying man-made structures created for such destructive purposes now in fact thrive with new life as nature regains control.

Temporal landscape


Appearing as a solid structure from afar, this first folly is in fact a composition of walls laid out to seem connected from the correct angle. As one approaches the walls glide apart to reveal their true positions. Laid out to contain acoustics, the walls provide a backdrop for small gatherings and performances, while a short roof harvests rainwater for use by passersby.

Hidden Dwelling

Further into the site a natural sheltered clearing offered the perfect conditions for camping. Nestling into the hillside to create cooler conditions, these shelters offer a suspended platform made from wooden modules connected by aluminium rods which add a layer of comfort to the sleeper. A concealed partition pivots from inside the side wall to enclose the face in adverse weather conditions. Traveling lightly with a traditional Australian swag, or with more conventional camping equipment, these dwellings offer greater protection from the often harsh climate.

     New York, USA



+1 917 601 1903

Copyright  © 2019  Melanie O'Brien. All rights reserved

  New York, USA

Melanie O'Brien


+1 917 601 1903

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