Mini Maddern

by Public Realm Lab


Mini Maddern was a 12 week activation in an under-utilised square in Footscray that invited children and their caregivers to actively engage with their city through play.

1. Mini Maddern Loose Parts Play | photography by Gianna Rizzo

A key principle from the outset was to demonstrate the capacity for urban renewal through free, creative play rather than consumption and to focus on enriching everyday life - rather than a ‘once-off’ event. Our hope was to add 30 minutes of play to every trip to and from Footscray Market or Footscray Train Station, to slowly change how people moved through Footscray village (favouring the East / West connecting laneways) and to tap into a completely unmet need for space for children in one of the fastest growing cities in Melbourne. Mini Maddern was initially conceived pre-COVID, however, the bulk of the planning, partnership building, and design took place during Melbourne lockdown in 2021. During this period of intense reflection on the nature of public space and the city, Mini Maddern began to become an experiment in rediscovering how to be civil. How to encounter others again, how to re-build community, using play, creativity, and small humans as a tool.

2. Mini Maddern Water Play | photograph by Gianna Rizzo

Through our partnership with Victoria University, we were able to create a public setting in which 600 Early Years students completed their mandatory placements, which were otherwise interrupted by the closure of private childcare centres during COVID. Critically, we were also able to gently shift the dynamics of the space through occupation.

3. Mini Maddern Paint Play | photograph by Clare Martin Lapworth

We intuited that the bigger changes in behaviour that Council, local residents, businesses and the police were seeking would be produced by gentle activation and passive surveillance of Maddern Square. The agenda was never to ‘move on’ the most vulnerable residents, but to recalibrate what they thought they could get away with in the square. This was one of the most radical and difficult aspects of the project - to co-exist with the existing users and prevent the most extreme behaviours.


Public Realm Lab, Maribyrnong City Counci, Victoria University, Bunnings, and Dulux