Triabunna is a small regional township on the east coast of Tasmania that in recent history served a nearby woodchip mill that permanently closed in 2013. Having spent time in the area working on concepts for the mill reuse project, we realised the township was at an important moment of transition and made a proposal to the council to run a design studio with Architecture students from Monash and UTas. The studio invited the students to come up with ideas for the future of Triabunna and incorporated consultation with the local community, culminating in an exhibition of design projects in various places around the town.
Recognising the interest the studio had generated within the community, we were then commissioned to undertake a more targeted Urban Design Study of the town’s public realm. Our final report distilled ideas from the studio and proposed 3 areas of focus, each of which included a long term vision and an associated Stage 1 project that could be immediately undertaken within limited budgetary means. The council decided to tackle the town entry project first which called for a new entry statement at the Tasman Highway turn off to address the fact that there was little to encourage travellers to pull off the highway and little to greet them if they did. We then helped council secure a federal tourism grant to make the project happen.
After a careful process of design development, the resulting built project is a type of roadside information stop located at the entrance to the town that through provision of basic amenity (shelter, seating, town orientation and ablutions), entices travellers off the highway and invites further exploration. The project combines this tourist focus with various community uses to create a new urban gateway into the town and a small, yet meaningful public space for visitors and locals alike.
Using and referencing local building forms, scales, materials and details, the project aims to re-frame and resonate with the unique cultural and environmental context of the town and surrounding landscape. Inside the small triangular display room, is a full size print of a high resolution photograph by Andrew Wilson of an indigenous bark canoe held in the local museum. A TV screen plays a loop of the story of the canoe being made by a group of Aboriginal men. We also designed a pamphlet that explains the significance of the canoe and doubles as a town map that people can take with them as a memento of their visit.
The building is surrounded by a stroll garden that showcases native and endemic plant species and is a type of test bed for species that can be used in future landscaping works in the town. Each day, Maggie, a local resident (with the help of Pharaoh dog) opens and closes the building, fills the school produce stand and keeps an eye on the state of the garden. Maggie has the official title of Gatehouse Keeper.
> The Gatehouse was featured in the March / April edition of Architecture Australia with a wonderful review written by Richard Black.
> The project is also is one of 15 projects to be exhibited in the Australian pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale, curated by Baracco + Wright and Linda Tegg under the theme of Repair.
> The project was given an AWARD FOR SMALL PROJECT ARCHITECTURE in the 2018 Australian Institute of Architects Tasmanian Chapter Architecture Awards
JURY CITATION:"The generosity of this project lies in its ability to act as many things. The Gatehouse does what it says: it signposts the entry to the township of Triabunna and provides amenity in many forms for visitors and the local community – annex, visitor centre, toilet block, local school produce stand, a gallery and seating to watch the Saturday footy match. The triangular form, born from negotiating underground services, forms an appropriate geometry for ‘entry’ signposting. At night, in contrast to the fluorescent white light, 24-hour petrol station that traditionally defines the night roads, the gatehouse softly emits a glow, signalling occupation of a township. Pristine in its appearance, it is always a delight seeing architecture that gives and, in return, is respected by those who engage with it. Civic generosity in spades."
Photographs by Anna Gilby + Ross Brewin