New spillway for Cato Lake

STAWELL - An architect-designed spillway at Stawell's Cato Lake will become a practical yet sculptural design feature of the picturesque and highly valued community park.

About 20 Monash University students and Japanese architect and Monash artist-in-residence Hiroshi Nakao will team up with Northern Grampians Shire Council engineers to work on the spillway project, which is being supported by a number of grant funding bodies.

The project has come about after Cato Lake flooded in January and December 2011, causing significant damage to the adjacent Stawell Bowling Club and nearby houses and businesses.

Shire Mayor Cr Dorothy Patton said council needed to address the flooding issues by building a spillway at the lake in order to mitigate against future flooding, and Monash Architecture students became involved as part of their annual Design/Make studio.

Cr Patton said the students and Mr Nakao will design and then build a combined observation and walkway structure over the new spillway, with the design retaining the fully accessible walking track circuit around the lake. The project will use local Krause bricks in an innovative design.

The project addresses a practical problem but also has a number of interweaving purposes including community amenity, artistic expression, flood recovery and economic development.

Cr Patton said a walkway will be part of the spillway design to ensure the continuation of the fully accessible pathway around the lake, a highly valued aspect of the park.

"This is an exciting project that will see something very unique built at Cato Park," Cr Patton said.

"The Council is really pleased to have Mr Nakao and the Monash architecture students working on the project, and we are looking forward to seeing what they construct. It is sure to be eye-catching and very interesting."

The Monash students had their first site visit with Mr Nakao and their tutor and project manager Professor Nigel Bertram in August, when they sketched the area, took photos and studied the lie of the land.

Professor Bertram said each year, Monash Architecture runs a Design/Make studio where students volunteer to design and then make a small built project in a group under the guidance of a visiting architect or artist.

"In the past we have used wood in our construction and this year we wanted to focus on the use of brick," he said.

"We made contact with Stawell brick maker Krause Bricks, who were very receptive and we then spoke to the council who were also very supportive and suggested the spillway project at Cato Park.

"Monash Architecture is very interested in researching how design thinking can be put to use in regional and rural areas in innovative ways, and this landscape/infrastructure project was an ideal project."

Professor Bertram said the site visit aimed to give the students an understanding of the site and the context in which their project will be placed.

During the site visit, the students felt the slope of the bank of the lake with their bodies in different ways to understand the scale and experience of the bank. They tried different directions and positions (sitting, lying, crouching, diagonal, upside down) to become more aware of the subtle differences between different parts of the edge between land and water.

Professor Bertram said the project was launched in Melbourne on September 8 in the Ian Potter Sculpture Court at Monash University, where the students and Mr Nakao erected a temporary installation that acted as a precursor to the larger project at Cato Lake.

Once the underlying structural component of the spillway is completed, the Monash University students will be staying in Stawell for four weeks to construct their section of the design. This will give metropolitan students exposure to living and working in a regional area.

"We are very grateful to Krause Bricks, the Council and the Stawell community for the opportunity to provide this great educational experience to our students, and we are very much looking for ward to starting construction," Professor Bertram said.

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