Prahran Square

  • 2021

  • Architectural
    Place Design

Commissioned By:

City of Stonnington

Designed In:


Prahran Square, Victoria, is one of the largest national open air plazas, marking a symbolic transformation for the community. The pre-existing carpark has been transformed into a diverse public realm, with multi-modal landscape spaces. It is now a lively community hub.

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Image: John Gollings
Image: Peter Bennetts
Image: John Gollings
Image: Peter Bennetts
Image: Peter Bennetts
Image: Peter Bennetts
Image: Peter Bennetts
Image: John Gollings
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  • The purpose of Cato Square was to create a meaningful and functional public space. An unremarkable car park breeding antisocial behaviour was reimagined into a diverse public realm for the community. The design for Prahran Square had to meet two critical client objectives: creating a safe and flexible public open space and providing a solution for increased local carparking. The aim was also to make the most of opportunities to collaborate with both the community and artists to create a space that would appeal to a broad range of people and artists.

  • All cars were removed from the ground plane through a two level underground carpark below the Square. Instead of completely disconnecting the carpark from the ground level, the edges of the square were raised to form streetscapes, allowing natural light into the carpark below, facilitating visual connections to the street. This increased visibility and clear wayfinding which were key to prioritising pedestrian safety. The streetscape edges also accommodate the carpark entry, stair access, retail spaces and service areas. A product of community collaboration can be seen in the immersive digital art installation by Ramus and Material Thinking, 'The Pipes'.

  • The space ebbs and flows with the mood of each day and the people that occupy it, allowing the community to define it's meaning. This flexibility and accessibility is key in creating a safe public realm. By giving space back to the people, Prahran Square has already transformed a community. Its true potential will be realised over time as the community transfers their identity to make the place their own. Prahran Square incorporates an urban park, square, streets, carpark and retail spaces, therefore its uses are varied. It's designed for intimate encounters to large scale events.

  • The streetscape edges create an 'interior' landscape sanctuary, sheltered from the constant vehicular traffic of the surrounding streets, ensuring that the space is prioritised for humans as a unique asset of the community unsullied by retail commercialisation and cars. The arrangement of this 'interior' landscape is based on nine uniquely themed spaces, each contributing a different value to the community. They define a diverse series of experiences including a mudstone 'Forest', a 'Sensory Garden', a 'Lawn' and a 'Terrace' all facing a central square that becomes a platform for daily use or formal events. Each of these is distinguished by four open corners, that demarcate spatial gateways to the adjacent precincts of Prahran Market, Chapel Street, Greville Street and Grattan Gardens. The corners also herald the diagonal pedestrian desire lines connecting these precincts across the Square. The immersive digital art installation by Ramus and Material Thinking is also found in all four corners of the square. The installation comprises LED poles, shaped like drapery needles inspired by Prahran's history and environment. These display abstract moving imagery together with engaging soundscapes that gently welcome and beckon people into Prahran Square 24-hours a day.