A’Beckett Urban Square is a temporary ‘pop-up’ recreational space that has become an instant magnet for students and young urban dwellers. Located behind the Swanston Academic Building the site had been used by RMIT University for many years as an open air car park. While the site awaits redevelopment, RMIT has generously opted to turn this underutilised and derelict space into a publically-accessible 2,800 square metre ‘pop-up’ park incorporating multi-use sports courts with spectator seating, table tennis, BBQ facilities, bike parking, Wi-Fi, plants in tubs and places to sit and relax.
Typically ‘pop-ups’ occupy leftover and underutilised spaces through the use of recycled materials and the clever adaption of everyday found objects. They are often gritty spaces that are curated rather than designed. A’Beckett Urban Square was conceived as a piece of urban theatre carved out of the surrounding city, which is framed by new residential towers, multi-level car parks and RMIT academic buildings.
The design approach was purposefully lean, developing upon the idea of a temporary and demountable installation. It is an active place for casual recreation, mainly for ball sports like basketball and volleyball. It is a place to socialise, relax and watch people. There is a playful use of bold colours and graphics on the ground plane to distinguish the active hard zones from passive soft zones.
A specially commissioned large-scale artwork by Melbourne artist Ash Keating, wraps the site on two sides. This work, titled Natural System Response, provides an engaging and energetic backdrop to the space with abstract swaths of verdant greens, searing reds and fluorescent oranges covering walls several metres high. Keating created the murals to represent the idea of an urban forest and a desert landscape, using airless spray from pressurised, paint-filled fire extinguishers.
"This is the hallmark of RMIT’s approach to urban design – creating permeable and integrated spaces that connect the University with the city and its people."Professor Margaret Gardner AO, Vice-Chancellor