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Case Study – A Dandenong Ranges Festive Garden


Project Overview:

Chas Clarkson’s “A Dandenong Ranges Festive Garden” decoration program was a resplendent in-centre, experiential garden-scape concept for Melbourne’s The Glen Shopping Centre. A collection of bespoke decorations that fused contemporarily-designed festive motifs, wrapped and draped exquisitely with artificial foliage inspired by the flora found in fern gullies of the neighbouring foothills of the Dandenong Ranges. The Chas Clarkson decoration program beautifully explored the harmony between high-end architectural design and the untamed nature of the local temperate Australian native rainforest habitat.


The Dandenong Ranges Festive Garden design was developed as a decorative, experiential mechanism to announce that Christmas had arrived in-centre and to imbue visiting shoppers and diners with a very localised ‘spirit of joy’.
The Glen’s retail landscape was transformed into a curated, festive experience which saw its entrances adorned with elegant gold & silver metal illuminated pyramid trees and hexagon domes. Its retail corridors were crowned with rows of giant fractal gold & emerald metal foliage wreaths. The food court and lower ground floor were bedecked with floating beams of bronze with cascading ferns and, at the heart of the experience, a hyper-stylised Santa experience which paid homage to Alice in Wonderland’s keyhole and the overgrown wonderment of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel ‘The Secret Garden’.


Once the decoration program was in place, the bespoke decorations created activation zones which, in the lead up to Christmas Day, became Christmas beacons for numerous festive events planned by The Glen’s Marketing Team and community groups.


Project Brief:

In 2019, Chas Clarkson had the honour of designing and delivering a world-class, festive place-making decoration program for Vicinity Centres’ newly-transformed South East Melbourne Shopping Centre – ‘The Glen’.


Christmas 2019 marked the completion of stage three of five in The Glen’s transformation and the opening of their 13,500sqm Fashion and Lifestyle precinct. The centre was transformed into a leading destination that would deliver a world-class experience for its customers where they could shop, socialise, relax, dine and live, both now and into the future.


It was imperative that the festive decoration program marked the beginning of a new era for both the centre and the community whom inhabited it. The key stakeholders in the project required the decoration program to have local relevance and to be non-traditional. The decoration program design was required to be sympathetic and complementary to the expansive architectural building and landscapes, created by the award-winning Melbourne-based design house ‘NH Architecture’.


By 2020, The Glen would be home to more than 250 stores & service enterprises, an indoor/outdoor dining precinct, and by mid-2023, sit beneath a three-tower luxury residential complex called ‘Sky Garden’. The Glen services a diverse customer base which spans a wide range of age groups and ethnicities, and has a higher-than-average disposable income. Their customers are savvy and have a love for the local lifestyle, but also crave Melbourne city designer food experiences and world-class retail shopping experiences.


Project Innovation:

This stunning Christmas concept draws inspiration from the beauty of nature. The Glen’s architectural style is complemented by the lush greenery and metallic finishes, while the modern geometric forms add an elevated level of sophistication to traditional Christmas shapes.


The brief asked for the delivery of a unique Christmas concept for The Glen, reflective of their art curatorial vision – ‘fashioned by nature’. The key design objective was to align the Christmas landscape with the existing design elements at The Glen – formed to reflect the leafy pocketed landscape of Glen Waverley. In addition to the lush greenery, we proposed that the decorations feature trims and traces of natural materials including wood, florals and metallics. Added to the design brief was the request for a series of sensory experiences to inspire and delight everyone who visits the centre at Christmas.



Visually, the challenge was to create a non-traditional, contemporary Christmas decoration scheme which still conveyed the festive spirit. The line between ‘Christmassy’ and ‘Not Christmassy enough’ can sometimes be a fine one! Our client wanted us to invoke the essence of Christmas using fewer statement pieces to create a high-impact visual, as opposed to a scheme which required volume to make a visual impact.


As always, one of our challenges was to design these large-scale, impressive, high-impact decorations in a way which allowed them to be broken down into smaller component pieces for storage and transportation. The components needed to be easy to assemble onsite and simple to install in order to be able to meet the installation and dismantle budget year-on-year.


Working with a complex variety of stakeholders (including the shopping centre, the interior designers of the new building and an array of suppliers and manufacturers) during a specification-heavy design process was a further challenge, as was ensuring the surface finishes across all products from all manufacturers were cohesive and seamless.


Delivering Sustainablity:

The Glen Christmas decoration program, delivered by Chas Clarkson, was produced by a local and international network of suppliers who are all striving to lower their carbon footprint and ethically source their manufacturing materials. All the decorations within the suite of decorations can be broken down and stripped into their various base materials (such as PVC, aluminium, plastic, etc.) and be recycled.


Low voltage LED lights were used throughout the decoration suite. These warm, white fairy lights were used in conjunction with shiny, highly-reflective surface finishes to maximise the impact of the minimal lighting.


The lifespan strategy for The Glen decoration suite is for it to be used for an initial 5 year phase, and then for it to be either rotated to a smaller, Vicinity-owned regional centre or donated/sold to a charity or non-competing business.