Melbourne 3
CYCLE 02 2023

Cardigan Commons

Cardigan Commons

Long Story, Short

We’re exploring Cardigan Street’s potential to transform into a more inclusive, collaborative and wild ‘greenscape’ with a focus on community perspectives and aspirations.

What We’re Exploring

What would it look like to transform Cardigan Street into an innovative green space that enhances local ecology, environmental health, and community wellbeing? ‘Cardigan Commons’ explores this question, investigating the opportunities available when reimagining local streetscapes – such as neighbourhood permeability, breathing life into public space, and connecting to nature and each other. The project will engage with local community groups and key stakeholders through activities such as surveys, vox pops, and workshops, culminating in a final exhibition of the community’s vision for the future of Cardigan Street.

Fine print

Project Team

Project and Local Contributors

Cardigan Commons Summary Report

The Cardigan Commons Summary Report is here!

We explored the potential of Cardigan Street, Carlton to transform into a more inclusive, collaborative and wild ‘greenscape’.

We investigated community perspectives and hopes for the streetscape through a range of research and community engagement methods to understand the barriers and concerns about the change, opportunities to shift perspectives, and collaborative ways to design a space.

There were many interesting reflections that came out of this study that can support the creation of new visions of what Cardigan Street could become and a community engaged in the process of its becoming.

Together, we’re tackling real-world, urban challenges and seeking innovations that improve liveability, community resilience and connection.

This summary will be shared with out local government and industry partners. Please feel free to send this link on to anyone or any organisation that might be intrigued!

Explore more in our full summary available to download from the ‘Download Report’ button above.



Cardigan Commons ‘Wild Streets’ Zine

‘Wild Streets’ Zine

This Zine is a creative output summarising our ‘Cardigan Commons’ Research Project and the research activities we explored including; Research Survey findings, Workshop insights and excerpts from our Wild Nights series with people from our City North and Melbourne community.



Research Survey findings insert within the ‘Wild Streets’ Zine.

The Team behind the Book

The design of this book was created by Paloma Bugedo, a graphic designer, artist and researcher. We appreciate the creativity and detail Paloma has applied in bringing this research to life.

Our RMIT PlaceLab team and project contributors involved in the creation of this Zine include Luke Gebert, Paloma Bugedo, Cherese Sonkkila, Frances Gordon, Kiri Delly and Brock Hogan.

This book is Printed in Victoria by Bambra Press.

Releasing the ‘Wild Nights’ Zine to our community.

Download a Copy of the ‘Wild Streets’ Zine

If you missed the chance to grab a printed copy of the book at our exhibition, don’t worry because we have made it accessible digitally.

As part of RMIT PlaceLab’s ‘Cardigan Commons’ Research Project, this Toolkit has been developed as a playful way of bringing different – often confronting – voices together to have their say on what they’d like to do in public spaces. The methodology includes co-design dynamics, prompts for facilitators and useful ways to systematise and analyse the data that is captured. Our ‘blob’ modules, a visual and playful way of organising ideas in space, helps envision without the design constraint co-design methodologies often face.



Testing out the ‘Street Codesign Toolkit’ at ‘Co-Lab for Cardigan‘. Photo by Dijana Risteska.


  • To join different community voices into a collaborative design experience
  • To create a collaborative image of the desires of the members of the community
  • To promote empathy between participants and with more-than-human organisms


I want to create my own CoDesign Workshop, where should I start?

Download Our Codesign Toolkit files!

Testing out the ‘Street Codesign Toolkit’ at ‘Co-Lab for Cardigan‘. Photo by Dijana Risteska.

Co-Lab for Cardigan‘ was our chance to test out the ‘Codesign Toolkit’.

How did it go?

Over two days, 23 participants including representatives of the local community, RMIT academics, students and council, along with 7 facilitators, created the following image on our PlaceLab whiteboard, following the Codesign Toolkit Zine Instructions:

Day 1
Day 2


How did we analyse this image?

The ‘blob’ system helps communicate ideas and desires, without having the formal constraints from traditional design exercises. Nonetheless, this result is difficult to digest and translate into inputs for a street design attempt. The following notes are a step-through on how we managed to systematise and analyse this output.

Using Illustrator, we divided the information in the whiteboard between blobs and texts. The following image represents the blob magnets, their colour, position and overlap.

We built a matrix to identify the intensity of overlaps. The horizontal axis is the bottom blob and the vertical axis the blob that positioned above:

The base blob used the most was “Urban Nature”, with “Moving” (40) as the most popular action that overlapped: people want to move around in nature. They also want to collaborate (26) and have recreation zones (28) over a natural environment.

While the above diagrams are focused on quantifiable data, the texts that were linked to the blobs help with qualitative inputs. We divided these between:

a) Verbs and Actions,

b) Infrastructure and physical components of the street, and

c) Other qualities.

The coding system, and our Excel template for analysis, helped us quantify the amount of mentions per category. We know from this that 49% of the actions people want to do in public space, are things related to nature. Additionally, 40% of physical structures mentioned were in relation to recreational amenities.

Workshop Observations

  • In terms of mobility (pink blobs) every group linked these zones to either bicycle lanes and parking or pedestrian areas.  None of them considered car lanes or car parking in their designs. There was a strong support to active mobility.
  • Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD), Swimming, Paddling, Water play, Water collection, Rain Garden, Pools, Urban Lake and other water oriented platforms, where repeated themes amongst groups. Along with a range of Nature Based Solutions, the presence of water was highly valued.
  • When groups where prompted to connect their section and discuss between teams, the way they connected was through nature: Water, Green spine, Canopy, Rain gardens, Edible environments, Soil health and Pioneer species, Connecting greenery.
  • All the green blobs were used up quickly, which talks about a practical limitation of the methodology. The only group that did not use all their green blobs was because they decided to assign the “Other” zones as water sensitive urban design, meaning that their blue magnets also represent “urban nature”.

What was participants perception?

Following Co-Lab, we sent out experience surveys to hear about participants’ perspectives.

  • 100% of participants felt their voice was represented,
  • 75% learned something new
  • “I learnt about a great process and tool for communicating ideas, as a way to share a new vision for the Cardigan Street project.”

Further insights into the workshops feedback can be explored on our “Wild Streets” Zine.


This is the story of how our Codesign Toolkit was developed and tested out!

Potentially, it could serve as a precedent for a future community engagement strategy aimed at envisioning the future of Cardigan Street.

Photo: Courtesy of Maud Cassaignau.

Meet one of RMIT PlaceLab’s Academic Collaborators, Dr. Maud Cassaignau. Maud is an urban, landscape and architectural designer and researcher working in RMIT’s School of Architecture and Urban Design. After working in leading practices in Europe and the US, she started realising projects within her own practice, XPACE.

Maude has taught at the ETH Zurich, the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Monash University, and now RMIT where she holds a senior lecturer position in landscape architecture. Her research – focusing on inclusive urban transformation, urban landscapes, climate adaptation, urban heat island effect, water sensitive design and urban wilding, has been nominated for national and international awards, published in books, and presented at Melbourne Design Week and the Venice Biennale.

We are pleased to work with Maude, her landscape architecture colleagues, Heike Rahmann and Brent Greene and their students, around considering possible urban wilding efforts for along Cardigan Street as part of our Research Project ‘Cardigan Commons’.


Cardigan Street. Photo by Dijana Risteska.

“The assumption is that wild revegetation strategies are more resilient and self-sufficient, need less maintenance, and can better resist to climate fluctuations and change. Simultaneously they will offer more appealing sights, moments of discovery and fascinating spaces to visitors.”

What drew you to collaborate with RMIT PlaceLab on its ‘Cardigan Commons’ Research Project?

When starting the collaborative research about urban wilding: aiming to test how wilding strategies could be implemented in a local urban context, we were keen to find opportunities to do this close to the CBD and RMIT University where we work. We wanted to be able to visit it often, do something close by, and enjoy the outcomes. PlaceLab’s dedicated aim of activating the Cardigan Street precinct and its strong connection with local communities offered an ideal partnership for developing a real-world intervention on campus that meaningfully involves users.

Wilding is an approach to urban vegetation that does not focus on single species but instead aims to implement whole ecosystems of plants, animals, fungi, soil, and air, within cities. It builds on the idea that plants do not thrive in isolation but need symbiotic relationships with other species, to best develop. The assumption is that wild revegetation strategies are more resilient and self-sufficient, need less maintenance, and can better resist to climate fluctuations and change. Simultaneously they will offer more appealing sights, moments of discovery and fascinating spaces to visitors.

You’re also working together on a Student Design Studio called ‘Rewilding the Campus’ in partnership with RMIT PlaceLab and Salad Dressing Landscape Architects Singapore. Can you share a little more about what inspired this partnership with Salad Dressing and how these partnerships have inspired / align with the students’ work?

I have pursued the model of doing research alongside Research-Design studios for 10 years, and this model has been very successful in creating synergies between teaching and research. Having your ideas challenged by students helps sharpening your thinking while students profit from their studios having real world implication and being exposed to innovative research and great collaborators. I theorised and reflected this model through my PhD at RMIT University.

Salad Dressing are cutting-edge practitioners from Singapore, who have a fantastic track record of wilding projects in Singapore. Collaborating with them has been a great opportunity to test how such concepts of wilding could translate in a local context with very different urban, climatic, and cultural conditions. This is interesting for both partners: RMIT and Salad Dressing.
The Studio, testing such strategies at urban and larger scale provided a good opportunity to spark discussions about different approaches and local differences.

Can you tell us a bit about your own research and how it intersects with the themes and objectives of the ‘Cardigan Commons’ Research Project?

My own research revolves around developing urban strategies and designs that retrofit cities in ways that better address climate (urban heat, flooding, drought), biodiversity and health challenges (physical, mental, wellbeing, pollution, opportunities for movement and socialising), while offering exciting spaces and opportunities for discovery. How can such strategies be developed at different scales, use existing urban pockets of space that can be progressively connected into larger networks for better pedestrian accessibility, air movement, ecological connection and water management?
How can these be deployed in a strategic and progressive manner to address our huge challenges of liveability?
Working on prototypes for wilding at different scales alongside urban strategies offers insights into how to best develop wilding at different scales.

What would your ideal Cardigan Street look like? What would make it possible?

The ideal Cardigan Street Park would offer extensive areas of lush vegetation, comprised of different plants, offering habitat to a variety of endemic species and animals that already exist in our cities but often struggle due to restricted habitats: birds, pollinators, bats, lizards, possums, critters, worms, fungi – just to name a few. These wild ecosystems would show seasonal change, and spontaneously develop over time. They would attract different non-human and human visitors, respond to climate, and offer moments of discovery, connection, respite. Grasslands and boardwalks would offer space for passage, socialising, outdoor study, meeting to local communities, and RMIT. Water bodies collecting rain and roof water would refresh surroundings. Teeming with water creatures they would be attracting drinking birds, bees and dragon flies. It would form a little urban oasis.

What are some ways we can consider greening urban spaces – both collectively and individually?

We should see the multiple benefits of ‘greening’ and wilding: They can bring us attractive and fascinating spaces for multiple outdoor activities, socialising, and respite. They can give us connections, and benefit our wellbeing, physical and mental health.
They can cool the city through evaporative cooling and prevent flooding, and later deal with drought by capturing rainwater. They also benefit the attractiveness and value of surrounding properties. We are convinced that wilding can provide a more interesting, resilient and less maintenance-intensive way of greening. It has many benefits thus should make investing in wild urban greenspaces a no-brainer.

Works from RMIT Indutrial Design Students’ Tactical Urbanism Design Studio. Photo by RMIT PlaceLab.

Just recently, RMIT PlaceLab assisted in activating the works of RMIT Industrial Design students under Dr. Juan Sanin, for their final assessment exploring Tactical Urbanism along Cardigan Street, as part of PlaceLab’s ‘Cardigan Commons’ Research Project.

Tactical Urbanism, in the context of Cities, is ‘an approach to neighbourhood building and activation using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions and policies’ (Garcia & Lydon 2015).

We’re happy to share some images of the work which emerged from the project – varying from pockets of rediscovery which breathed new life into Cardigan’s familiar alleys and laneways; to open invitations for the community to sit and connect, put on full display along its busy footpaths.

Works from RMIT Indutrial Design Students’ Tactical Urbanism Design Studio. Photo by RMIT PlaceLab.

Works from RMIT Industrial Design Students’ Tactical Urbanism Design Studio. Photo by RMIT PlaceLab.

Works from RMIT Industrial Design Students’ Tactical Urbanism Design Studio. Photos by RMIT PlaceLab.

Works from RMIT Industrial Design Students’ Tactical Urbanism Design Studio. Photos by RMIT PlaceLab.

Works from RMIT Industrial Design Students’ Tactical Urbanism Design Studio. Photos by RMIT PlaceLab.

PlaceLab-ers with the RMIT Industrial Design students. Photos by RMIT PlaceLab.

On the 20th and 21st of September 2023, PlaceLab Melbourne held a series of fun, interactive, and purposeful workshops that brought different voices together to creatively envision the future of Cardigan Street.

As part of our Research Project “Cardigan Commons”, ‘Co-Lab for Cardigan’ was about exploring the potential of Cardigan Street to transform into a more inclusive, collaborative and wild ‘greenscape’, with a focus on community perspectives and aspirations. Read on to find out about why we thought this was important, and how this all went.

How can a street be designed to fit the needs of a community and our societal challenges?

With climate change, biodiversity loss, and urban isolation becoming pressing global concerns, cities are an opportunity hotspot to address these critical challenges (Oke et al, 2021). For this potential to flourish, societies must not only redesign our built environment, but also the development processes in which these evolve (Golicnik et al, 2020). When it comes to public space, as a shared asset of the city, it is particularly challenging ensuring that the multiple stakeholders with agency and/or interest are taken into consideration through collaborative design processes. While co-design has been identified as a pathway for effectively increasing green areas for biodiversity enhancement in the city (Basnou et al, 2020), inclusive community engagement is seen as a pathway to congregate stakeholders, improve social cohesion and create smart sustainable cities (Bokolo, 2021).

There are a wide variety of co-design methodologies, also known as ‘Participatory Design’ (PD), (Halskov, 2015) that aim to bring different stakeholders together and express their individual and collective dreams for the city. These efforts seek to overcome ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ and create spaces that foster the needs of the community, promote their stewardship of the land, and create places that thrive both for humans and more-than-humans (Hernandez-Santin et al, 2023). For a successful ‘PD’ to take place, community engagement requires a critical place-based approach for meaningful citizen participation (Arnstein, 2007), seeking consensus building (Innes and Booher, 2007) to overcome inevitable – yet necessary – conflict.

PlaceLab’s interest is in developing research methodologies that capture the dreams, commonalities, and discrepancies in urban open spaces through collaborative design tools. Our place-based approach helps us understand our specific case study and become active stakeholders in the environment we work and research, as we then define and refine our research questions. Due to challenges and time constraints in recruitment for applying our tools, this research primarily focuses on presenting the methodologies developed, rather than showcasing data resulting from a long-term strategic community engagement process. We are excited to share this process, hoping that the valuable content captured in ‘Co-Lab for Cardigan’ can inform ways to reimagine the future of collective open spaces, with input from the citizens who use and give meaning to these places. Potentially, streets can transition into more-than-human and water-oriented environments with a connected and resilient community, fulfilling the opportunity space to assist in the global transition for our societies to thrive in place.


Participants of Co-Lab walking through Cardigan Street. Photo by Dijana Risteska.

How to imagine the future of Cardigan Street?

In the context of Cardigan Street, our Melbourne PlaceLab team has developed and tested out a co-design toolkit for a research context, to bring together different members of the community and collaboratively envision the opportunities for the street: this was ‘Co-Lab for Cardigan’.

‘Co-Lab’ had the purpose of bringing together different voices with competing needs and interests around Cardigan Street’s public space. It aimed to unveil the challenges of designing in a limited area for multiple desires, and from this a relational issue stood out: “How do different types of stakeholders collaborate in the co-design of public space?”. It also aimed in collaboration with RMIT landscape architecture academics, to interrogate the role of street design from a rewilding lens, following our key research question: “What’s the street of your wildest dreams?“. In doing so, our intention was to create a consolidated map of Cardigan Street using our ‘Co-Lab Toolkit’ as well a participatory design methodology for creative community engagement.

PlaceLab’s Co-Lab for Cardigan Event, from the street. Photo by Dijana Risteska.

So, Co-Lab! What happened?

The two workshops were delivered on two days in September, with a total of 23 attendees from across local community, RMIT academics, students and staff, and urban/environmental professionals. Participants were divided into groups led by facilitators from RMIT’s School of Architecture & Urban Design.
The two-hour sessions, started with introductory talks to set the scene around PlaceLab and the Cardigan Commons Research Project.
We also heard from Brent Greene, a Senior Lecturer from RMIT’s School of Architecture and Urban Design, who presented on “Rewilding” strategies from an LA perspective, as precedents to question and reimagine street design’s status quo.

Senior Lecturer, Brent Greene, presenting ‘Rewilding’ strategies for the city. Photo by Dijana Risteska

From there, participants broke into groups to introduce themselves, connect, and share their thoughts around the icebreaking question: “What is your favourite public open space?”. Following this discussion, and to immerse the participants in the ambience of Cardigan Street, we then went for a guided grounding walk to explore and consider the streetscape and its design.

Participants of Co-Lab on a guided grounding walkthrough Cardigan Street. Photos by Dijana Risteska.

On returning to the PlaceLab Melbourne studio, each team member was given their ‘Co-Lab’ Toolkit, which included an instruction zine to guide the co-design process. The first step involved each group discussing the question, “What are your team’s values?” For this, they were provided a list of values from various RMIT strategies and reports as inspiration and asked to choose six values from the list or to create their own for presenting back.

The purpose of the workshop activities up to this point was to foster connections among team members and find shared values. As a playful conclusion to this section, they were tasked with naming their team.
The following stages of the workshop had the now connected participants, working together on their allocated sections of the street, to create a collage-like map of Cardigan Street focusing on the area between Victoria and Queensberry Street.

Participants were then prompted to brainstorm in their groups, the question “What would you like to do in Cardigan Street?”. The verbs/ actions that arose from this discussion were then linked to coloured magnet pieces – or ‘blobs’ (inspired by Tetris configurations), categorised into colours: green for ‘Urban Nature’, orange for ‘Collaboration Zone’, purple for ‘Recreation Zone’, pink for ‘Moving’ and blue to be uses as a ‘wild card’. This common coding across teams, had the purpose of spatially systematising the outcomes of the workshop.

For a second iteration using the ‘blobs’, we adopted a unique perspective, taking on more-than-human personas assigned to each participant. We asked, “How should the street be designed from their perspective?”. Each group was prompted to present the key features of their proposals in a two-minute presentation, while paying special attention to the group working on their neighbouring section of the street. At the end of this exercise, all groups discussed together how to fill in any activity gaps between the sections, resulting in a complete collage-like image of Cardigan Street.

A participant filling in the gaps. Photo by Dijana Risteska.

While having the same set of tools and instructions, each of the groups had a different approach and visual language to addressing the exercises. This talks to the different world views, personalities and interests from the stakeholders gathered.

Stay tuned to discover more about what was envisioned in this ‘Co-Lab’!

Participants, Facilitators and Place-Lab researchers at Co-Lab day 1. Photo by Dijana Risteska.

The monolith at PlaceLab Melbourne after Co-Lab. Photo: RMIT PlaceLab.

Following on from our earlier post ‘Wild Nights Interactive Nature Events: Recap‘, we’ll now take you through each Cardigan Commons ‘Wild Nights’ events, outlining what we got up and who was involved.


Urban Wildlife Meet and Greet (Wild Nights #1)

Our first ‘Wild Night’ focused on urban wildlife. We heard from Cristina Hernandez, a PhD Candidate at RMIT, about the biodiversity crisis happening here in Melbourne, and worldwide and how we can help by understanding and nurturing the nature around us. We also learned from Yu Han Goh, the Director of Design at landscape architecture studio – ‘Salad Dressing’, and Heike Rahmann, a Senior Lecturer in landscape architecture at RMIT, about how people in Singapore are learning to live alongside monkeys, snakes and otters.


And we got to meet some animals! Wildlife educators from Animals of Oz introduced us to an energetic sugar glider, a calm and serene growling grass frog, a lazy blue tongue lizard, a curious grey-headed flying fox, and a sleepy tawny frogmouth. We were entranced by their eyes looking at us, as we looked back at them. At the very end, a few lucky people got to hold the huntsman spider, with her feathery feet resting gently on their hands.


Why a wildlife experience?

A study based in Singapore (Ngo, et al., 2022) found that direct experiences with wildlife (as opposed to in books or documentaries) influenced a more positive attitudes towards wildlife and willingness to coexist with them. This was even true for less desirable species such as bees and crows.

PlaceLab-er Paloma Bugedo illustrating the Wild Life experience. Photo by Emily Brigid Short.

Botanical Illustration Workshop (Wild Nights #2)

Eucalypts were the star of the show for our second Wild Night. We heard from Brent Greene, a Senior Lecturer from RMIT’s School of Architecture and Urban Design, about drawing natural landscapes, including the nuances of how we define what is “natural”. And, we had an introduction to our subject, the Yellow Gum (Eucalyptus leucxylon), from our resident PlaceLab-er and gum tree expert, Luke Gebert.

Jessie Ford, a local botanical artist, led the hands-on workshop. She taught us that looking closely (and for a long time) at the specimen you are drawing is the key to understanding it and creating your representation of it. We learned how to apply light and shade, to sketch what we saw – not what we think we saw, and to use different pencil movements for different effects.


Why botanical illustration?

We wanted to create an event to combat “Plant blindness”.  This is where humans are less likely to notice plants in their environment, seeing them as just background noise. This is partly because plants don’t have faces, so our brains ignore them. This ignoring of plants has broader implications, creating a disconnect from the natural world, less knowledge, and less appreciation for these important organisms.


Jessie Ford working on her Botanical Illustrations. Photo by Emily Brigid Short.

Microbat Watercolour Workshop (Wild Nights #3)

Have you ever heard of Microbats? Not everyone has. They are tiny bats (weighing 3 to 150 grams. Or between 1 and 9 Savoy crackers) that live all around us — we have 21 species in Victoria alone. You’ve probably seen them flying at night out of the corner of your eye, they’re very fast. This event began with a talk about designing spaces for habitats by RMIT landscape architect Maud Cassaignau,. From planter boxes to forest gardens, and how the connections habitat spaces allow wildlife to get around.

Also speaking, was wildlife carer Ericka Tudhope from Microbats of Melbourne. She busted many bat myths, and we learned that bats are very clean, that some bats do drink blood, but bats aren’t blind and in fact can see quite well! Many microbats are important pollinators, as well as voracious insect eaters that keep our city’s bugs in check. Importantly, we learned that although bats can carry disease, like any animal, we can only get sick from them if we touch them.

Our resident PlaceLab-er, Paloma Bugedo, then took us through a crash-course in watercolour painting. We learned how to layer, and leave space for lighter shades. We played with the liveliness of water and built up colours to depict the more natural tones of the tiny bats we were representing (or chose to keep things colourful!).


Why microbats?

Although we have so many microbat species living alongside us in the city, most people don’t know about them. That, and people don’t usually like bats. They are often associated with disease and fear. But there’s some evidence that greater understanding of bat biology can increase positive attitudes towards bats (Prokop et al., 2009), which is important to ensure they are given the space they need to help our urban ecosystems function.

Participants showing their microbat watercolour paintings. Photo by Emily Brigid Short.

What’s next?

For these events we collected data on how they might have impacted mood and perceptions of urban nature.

Stay tuned to find out the impact of the Cardigan Commons Research Project’s ‘Wild Nights’ on the relationship between people and the more-than-human world.

Participants contributing their thoughts to on the relationship between people and the more-than-human world. Photo by Emily Brigid Short.

Moments and information from the evening were captured in an image created by Paloma Bugedo (PlaceLab-er and visual storyteller) to document the evening in an engaging and succinct format. 

Our ‘Cardigan Commons’ Wild Nights Interactive Nature event series has wrapped!


Wild Nights were an experimental event format devised to connect people with the extraordinary nature we live alongside right here in Melbourne’s city. We paired expert talks with hands-on experiences focused on urban species and ecosystems and invited the community along!

Over three Thursday nights we hosted a wildlife experience with real-life animals, a botanical drawing class focused on eucalypts, and a watercolour workshop where we painted microbats. We met a cheeky sugar glider, sketched some beautiful gum leaves, and learned many bat facts!

This event series was part of ‘Cardigan Commons’ – our research project exploring the potential of Cardigan Street, Carlton to transform into a pedestrianised and nature-filled public space. As part of this imagining, we thought it would make sense to explore the importance of our urban nature.

PlaceLab-er Cherese Sonkkila introducing the Wild Nights Event Series. Photo by Emily Brigid Short.

Why get to know urban nature?

We know that spending time in nature is good for your wellbeing, but people in the city have fewer opportunities to do so. This is coined the “extinction of experience”. This phenomenon means that city-dwellers tend to miss out on the benefits of nature interactions.

The extent to which we feel a part of the natural world, “nature connectedness”, has been linked to happiness. So, we wanted to foster a greater connection to nature through our events.

Additionally, the Victorian’s Value Nature survey shows that generally, and especially for city dwellers, Victorians don’t always view urban areas as an important place for plants and animals to live. However, many important species live and thrive within the city – including endangered species.

Why hands-on activities?

We know that not *everybody* is interested in nature. A 2023 study by Selinske and colleagues found that people in Melbourne who were less connected to nature were not interested in nature events.  So how to increase connection to nature and bring them those benefits?

What we did was create a series of events that would have an appeal outside just nature enthusiasts. By having a series of meet-and-greet and art events, we hoped to interest people who were curious and looking for something fun to do.

In doing so, we were particularly inspired by a study called, “Exploring integrated ArtScience experiences to foster nature connectedness through head, heart and hand”. Renowden and colleagues ran a similar series of events that engaged participants heads (mind), hearts (emotions) and hands (through physical artistic activities) to nurture a greater connection to the more than human world.

Click here to read all about the workshops, outlining what we got up to as part of each of our Wild Nights Interactive Nature events.

Participants learning about microbats at the Watercolour Microbat Workshop. Photo by Emily Brigid Short.

Photograph by Animals of Oz

Discover extraordinary urban nature!

Wild Nights is a series of interactive nature and wildlife events at RMIT PlaceLab Melbourne as part of the Cardigan Commons Research Project.

Urban Wildlife Meet-And-Greet

Thursday 3, 6:30-8 pm @PlaceLab Melbourne

Get up close and meet the fluffy, scaly and feathery friends that share our city!

Join us for a meet-and-greet with delightful and incredible native Melbourne wildlife species. This wildlife experience will allow you to get up close and learn about the wonderful species that can be found right here in our city.

The session begins with short expert talks on the biodiversity thriving within the city – shedding light on the diverse wildlife that exists in urban environments, as well as emphasising the importance of habitat and the ways in which plants, animals and humans too, are interconnected. Participants will gain a deeper understanding urban ecosystems and of our incredible urban species and how they make a living here alongside us.

Following this, trained wildlife experts from Animals of Oz will bring along urban wildlife species for you to meet and get to know! You can expect to make many fluffy, scaly and feathery friends – such as a kookaburra, ring-tailed possum, blue tongued lizard, and grey-headed flying fox. This is a social event not to be missed!

Come along to discover and meet the incredible and often overlooked wildlife species that call this vibrant city home.

*please advise us if you have any animal phobias prior to attending this event


Limited spots available. Registrations essential.

Registered your interest here.

Should you register and then not be able to attend please let us know so we can manage numbers.

We’re keen to learn how you imagine the future of Cardigan Street.

RMIT PlaceLab’s “Cardigan Commons” research project is exploring Cardigan Street’s potential to transform into a more inclusive, collaborative and wild ‘greenscape’ with a focus on community perspectives and aspirations.

This survey should take around 5-10 minutes to complete. Questions will focus on your perceptions of Cardigan Street now, your dreams for it’s future, thoughts on the environment, and demographics. All responses are anonymous by default, your participation is voluntary, and you can opt out at any time.

As part of the survey you can opt in to receive information about participating in further Cardigan Commons research activities. If you opt in, your email address will be linked to your survey responses in order to help us to find the right people to participate.

At the end of the survey, you will have the chance to go in the draw for 1 of 10 $100 gift cards.

Click the link ‘Get Involved’ to enter!

‘Cardigan Commons’ is exploring Cardigan Street’s potential to transform into a more inclusive, collaborative, and wild ‘greenscape’ with a focus on community perspectives and aspirations.

The project asks the question, “What would it look like to transform Cardigan Street into an innovative green space that enhances local ecology, environmental health, and community wellbeing?” It investigates the opportunities available when reimagining local streetscapes – such as neighbourhood permeability, breathing life into public space, and connecting with nature and each other.

The project will engage with the local community and key stakeholders through activities such as surveys, vox pops, and workshops, culminating in a final exhibition of the community’s vision for the future of Cardigan Street.

We’d love you to be part of it. Follow us here & stay tuned.

RMIT Bowen Lane. Image: RMIT University

What Is: A ‘Commons’?

In its essential form, the commons is the natural and cultural resources available to all of society.

The term “commons” originated in medieval European as a term for “common land” managed collectively by a community. In modern times, it can apply to any kind of common resource; natural (such as a state park), urban (such as a street), or intellectual (such as Wikipedia).

Famously, ecologist Garret Hardin wrote “The Tragedy of the Commons” in 1968, in which he detailed his theory that any resource freely available to a group of people was doomed due to individuals acting in their own interest and depleting the resource.

This theory has been widely criticised, and Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom demonstrated that throughout history and in different cultures, there have been and are many successful commons.


She detailed the parameters that made a successful commons, which included clearly defining the common resource and fostering a sense of trust within the community.

  1. Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems

Crenshaw Community Garden, Los Angeles.

In an urban context, a commons is a space in which citizens have a common stake, and might include a park, open space or other neighbourhood amenities. In some cases, the public are key players in the use and planning of a commons, and co-create the city with governing bodies.

We see communities of students, residents, local businesses, planners, designers and carers of place building a new urban commons with our community in Melbourne, and we want to find out more!

Bundoora Open Day at RMIT Bundoora Campus. Image: RMIT University.

RMIT PlaceLab acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the Eastern Kulin Nations on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University.

RMIT PlaceLab respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present, as the original and continuing Makers of Place.

Melbourne 4
CYCLE 02 2023

Flatpack : Repacked