Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens, VIC, Australia
The Botanic Gardens approached AMA after seeing our proposed Styx Valley Protest Shelter and BOB (mobile home). They wished to have a mobile visitors pod for their “Garden Ambassadors” (volunteers) to use. The pod was to be taken to different parts of the garden coinciding with annual events such as flowering of specific plants where the ambassadors could share their knowledge with visitors about a wealth of history and ecology at the gardens. The client had images of a simple car trailer and asked if something more could be done on a tight budget.
Proposed was a simple timber cube with a green roof, a large planter box when not in use. The box unfolds to reveal information about the gardens, a space to teach potting of differing species of plants, explore seed types and discuss the history of the gardens. A fold down bench and seating for chats with visitors or a casual cup of tea between ambassadors. Most importantly was to resist a display wall that opens in a single direction. The pod folds out to define differing spaces while connecting each. The visitor can wander around it to discover info on their own or interact with ambassadors directly, chatting through the pod rather than from it out into an onlooking audience.
The “visitors centre” is reimagined. BotPod is a micro-visitors centre that travels to the inquisitive visitor, instead of the opposite. A democratic response to the needs of the garden’s patrons. With a budget nowhere near that of a technology-driven information centre - as is the expectation of a technology-fuelled generation - this simple box is a mobile educational book that comes right to you as you wander around the garden, providing you with everything a computer screen can - and more. Through its subtle hints at spatial division, BotPod encourages social interaction amongst visitors and ambassadors, creating meaningful spaces out of any space.
The BotPod was conceived by doing more for less, and less for more. The intention was specific and generous; the budget was limited; the execution was informed simplicity. The concept of the overly engineered trailer - stripped-down and simplified in form, whilst maintaining sophistication in its means of spatial division. When closed it is a simple beautiful timber box with a green roof. A huge pot plant perhaps. When opened however it reveals an internal skeleton that is not overly curated and can be used at the will of the ambassadors, whether it is to hang, display or attach objects. Three walls swing open to realise the ability for this unassuming box to engage with the public.
Simplicity and mobility drive the BotPod’s sustainable credentials. Its modular nature allows it to be repaired easily by replacing discrete components, without the risk of having the entire unit become redundant. By being a mobile, self-supporting structure it consciously avoids damaging the site it sits in; harnessing nothing, emitting nothing.
The BotPod communicates sustainability in itself by being a vehicle - literally - for education in ecology, carrying information such as the planting process and indigenous species. The turf roof acts as a layer of thermal insulation to the box to prevent overheating when it is used in summer. It also means that even when it is not being used to educate the public, it is just another giant pot plant in the garden.