Architects: NH Architecture
Location: Point Cook, VIC, Australia
Design Team: Peter Dredge, Hamish Lyon, Andy Gentry, Fiona Collie, Emily Kilvington, Astrid Jenkin, Mitch McTaggart, Chris Reddaway, Silvia Tasani, Jan Vastestaeger, Chad Harrison, Ramiro Marroquin
Cost: $6.1 million
Photographs: Dianna Snape
Saltwater Coast is a new housing subdivision near Point Cook which will accommodate around 4,000 residents and appeal to the aspirational second home buyer. The development thematically exploits its proximity to quite a beautiful stretch on the western shores of Port Phillip Bay. The land owners and their landscape architects have put a great deal of effort into the careful reinterpretation of a sensitive local ecology that boasts a very significant bird migration area at the Cheetham Wetlands.
The question for us as architects was how to reconcile the march of suburban sprawl with such a sensitive environment.
The developers have achieved this largely through investment in public spaces with a landscape solution that is indebted to the local beach context, and by insisting on a compatible material palette for individual houses. The emerging evidence on site suggests that the landscape solution is a very successful investment in public infrastructure, while the housing delivers mixed results, much as expected from the less design focused project home industry.
Into this context, Saltwater Coast has received a new lifestyle centre. This type of facility is now de rigueur in the new subdivisions, acting as both a community centre and private recreation club for the residents. Containing a lap pool, recreational pool, children’s pool, spa, gymnasium, tennis courts, a café, and multi-purpose function space, the lifestyle centre boasts all the facilities a healthy body would crave, and importantly encourages a sense of community and ownership among the locals, who will in the end manage the facility via a body corporate structure.
The new facility is located on a prominent corner opposite one of the new and elaborate linear parks, and in spite of being surrounded by houses, the site is clearly thrust into the public realm. This generates a desire for monumentality – an architecture that is civic, in opposition to the cacophony of individualism that characterises the growing collection of houses.
The form of the building is both singular and complex – a monolithic timber clad sinuous form that moves, folds and weaves itself in a simultaneous response to views, address, and the wider context. The form is both open and containing of space. The façade is cut to create apertures for strategic viewing to the adjacent parkland and the city lights on the horizon. One can track the movement of the interior promenade as revealed through the manipulation of the exterior façade.
A restrained palette of timber, glass and dark bronze lends the building a deliberate gravitas. Detailing is also restrained, and refined to the point where craftsmanship is celebrated in an otherwise process built environment. The Lifestyle Centre is a coastal pavilion in a suburban setting, with aspirations beyond its size and immediate environment.
NH Architecture has successfully provided the local community with a high quality, uniquely designed community centre, delivered within a robust commercial environment, and setting a benchmark for Point Cook and the surrounding area.