Two days before the official launch of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival hub, The Immersery Festival Kitchen Bar, landscape architects from Hassell, Brenton Beggs and Johanna Picton, were still looking over the unfinished site.
“We knew from the outset that we didn’t have a lot of time to work with,” says Beggs. “So we had to build the structure in sequences, starting with the dining area and then on to the cloud.”
Yes, there’s a cloud. Designed by Hassell’s team of young designers, The Immersery takes on the festival’s water theme. It is, “inspired by water’s cyclical journey”, and it will sit in Queensbridge Square, Southbank.
The objective of The Immersery is to showcase the array of chefs, baristas and bartenders that will be working on a series of special events; along with demonstrations of water-based cooking techniques. For Hassell, it is also about offering Melburnians the opportunity to look at their city, and the Yarra, from a different point of view.
“We want people to go away from their Immersery experience and talk – not just about the food – but about how valuable water is as a part of our environment and to experience Melbourne in a new way,” says Beggs.
With the three states of water in mind: solid, liquid, gas, the designers created an ambitious “cloud” made of PVC pipes that provides a roof for the dining area. A mist, light and sound installation by artist Philip Samartzis will also help to bring the ‘cloud’ concept together.
Meanwhile, water’s liquid form is represented by the Raingarden, a vertical garden planted in reclaimed 40-gallon drums.
The Immersery is architecture firm Hassell’s second run at creating a hub for the festival, the first being last year’s Urban Coffee Farm and Brew Bar.
Once the festival wraps up, the materials used to build The Immersery, most of which are recycled or reclaimed materials, will be put back into circulation. The plants will also, very carefully, be returned to their nurseries.
“We only had a couple of [plant] casualties last year, I hope everything goes back to the nurseries in one piece this year.”
The Immersery Festival Kitchen Bar and Raingarden will be open throughout the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival from February 28 to March 16.