Valley Lake estate, in Keilor East, is located in a visually stunning pocket of the thriving north-west Melbourne, where land formations create a dramatic yet protective atmosphere. Built on the sloping land that was once Niddrie Quarry, basalt for road paving was mined there from the 1940s until 1975. McGregor Coxall worked with Places Victoria to develop a lookout and viewing platform that would act as an anchor point for locals to enjoy the outdoors and participate in neighbourhood activation.
Capturing the distinctive character and atmosphere of the landscape, the view overlooks 30 hectares of open space and escarpments. To date more than 180 houses have been built with another 400 in the pipeline and thus the lookout provides vital local outdoor amenity for a young community, encouraging serendipitous encounters and social interaction between neighbours. Strategically positioned along a man made central ridgeline that ends at a prominent knoll, the lookout is designed as a light steel structure which floats over the manmade topography before cutting into the knoll, holding views as the boardwalk submerges into the topography and finally released onto a cantilevered edge with striking elevated views across the quarry.
Referencing the industrial past, a simple material palette utilises galvanized steel and insitu concrete with a striped formwork finish reminiscent of the scraping of quarry diggers. The use of endemic planting species assists in framing views whilst the species are also selected to provide soil stabilisation. The whole concept behind the design was to create a memory of the industrial past of this site, referencing conveyor belts and the notion of excavating into the rock to extract the basalt. This is expressed in the linear rough surface of the concrete walls. At dust the lookout appears in stark contrast to sleepy suburban development creating a sense of place that is unique in its context and hence creating its own strong identity.