Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Pumphouse Point in Tasmania, Australia by CUMULUS STUDIO
April 17th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: CUMULUS STUDIO
The project involved the adaptive reuse of Pumphouse Point into a wilderness retreat. The existing heritage listed, art-deco style buildings – ‘The Pumphouse’ and ‘The Shorehouse’ – were constructed in the 1940s as part of Tasmania’s hydro electric scheme and are positioned within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The two buildings had been unused for over twenty years before works began.
Eighteen new guest suites, communal lounge areas and a shared dining area have been inserted within the existing off-form concrete building envelopes. From inception we envisaged that the Pumphouse Point redevelopment should encapsulate rugged simplicity and unrefined comfort. Through its design the new redevelopment attempts to build on the sense of arrival and place inherent in the unique location whilst alluding to the site’s history through material selection and construction detailing.
In keeping with best heritage practice and the values of the World Heritage Area in which it is located, the design is focused on environmental stewardship, sustainability and minimal site impact.
Located just inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Pumphouse Point was originally constructed as part of Tasmania’s hydro electric scheme and has been unused for over twenty years before being redeveloped.
The redevelopment,which has already become a signature project for Tasmanian tourism, involved the adaptive reuse and refurbishment of two existing, heritage listed, off-form concrete art deco buildings – ‘The Pumphouse’ and ‘The Shorehouse’ – into a wilderness retreat.
The Pumphouse, a three storey building originally constructed in the 1940s to house pump turbines, sits on Lake St Clair at the end of a 250m concrete flume which is its only connection to land. The Shorehouse, located at the start of the flume on the edge of the lake, was constructed at the same time and accommodated offices and a maintenance workshop for the turbines.Eighteen new guest suites have been inserted within the existing concrete building envelopes- twelve of these are located in The Pumphouse and the remaining six are within The Shorehouse. The Shorehouse also accommodates the prep kitchen and main communal lounge / dining room.
Only minimal work has been done to the exterior of the buildings. This is a deliberate response to maintain the high heritage value of the existing buildings and to emphasise the contrast between the new interiors and the exterior – their distressed condition a testament to the harsh environment inwhich they are located.
The approach to The Pumphouse building, surrounded by mountains and water, heightens the anticipation and sense of arrival. Guests pass through solid metal doors into the entry foyer – an intermediate zone through which guests are brought gently into the comfort of the suites from the rawness of the wilderness outside. The twelve studio-sized suites run lengthways down the two outer wings, leaving the central core devoted to communal lounge areas on each level, open at both ends so that the sight-line that begins from the flume continues through the building.
A simple neutral palette has been used throughout in order to characterise a rugged simplicity and uncomplicated comfort into which the guests retreat. The untreated rough-sawn hardwood and exposed servicing pipework of the entry and common spaces subtly give way to more refined Tasmanian timber veneer panelling and exposed bent copper plumbing in the suites. These items also allude to the history of the place – the timber formwork of the off-form concrete and water once pumping through the core of the building.
The projecthas been achieved on an extremely tight budget in a remote location whichrequired a large amount of site servicing and infrastructure. Simple construction techniques were utilised and opportunities for standardisation and prefabrication sought through joinery and fittings. Working within existing enclosures that were originally designed for very different functions, a large amount of effort was spent manipulating the internal spaces to balance private and common spaces.. Significant co-ordination was also required to ensure anefficient structural solutions that worked with the high acoustic performance required for the suites.
Although the project is located within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, it is not intended to overtly showcase environmental credentials or be an ‘eco-lodge’. Instead the architecture acts as a subtle backdrop to the surrounding wilderness – a retreat from which the encompassing environment can be experienced firsthand by many who would not otherwise take the opportunity.
Our overall aim was to minimise any potential impact of the redevelopment on the World Heritage Area. This approach was carried through the construction process with the builders working within an environmental management plan to carefully deal with potential contamination issues and restrict access to only the areas of the site that had previously been disturbed.
With the exception of increasing the thermal performance of the building through insulation and use of high performance glazing,minimal work was done to the building envelopes.
The relatively consistent temperature of the lake and the thermal mass of the existing concrete buildings has been utilised so that the buildings can rely on natural ventilation and only require localised space heating during winter. Rather than the approach of a traditional hotel where all spaces are air conditioned to a homogenized level, we took the approach of dividing the spaces into one of three categories – non-conditioned (entry foyers), semi-conditioned (lounges and public areas) and conditioned (guest suite) spaces. This meant that different heating strategies could be employed (eg. wood fires in public areas and panel heaters in the suites) and allowed transition zones between the outdoors and the suites.
Material and product selection is subtle in its response to environmental stewardship with natural materials favoured where possible – local Tasmanian timber used untreated and rough sawn in the public areas or as natural stained veneer in the suites and joinery in shared spaces.
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