Budj Bim National Park Lookout
For over 30,000 years the Gunditjmara people have lived and farmed the stony country that follows the path of the lava flow from Budj Bim down to Tyrendarra (near Portland). Their settlements were permanent, comprising sprawling villages of stone huts and elaborate aquaculture systems that pre-date Egypt's pyramids. The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with outstanding universal value that “bears an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions, knowledge, practices and ingenuity of the Gunditjmara”1.
CSA were engaged by Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation over several years to develop tourism infrastructure to reveal these unique sites to the world. The project takes visitors into a privileged cultural experience of the Budj Bim Landscape, led by the Gunditjmara people. It is intended to provide an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable means of caring for country and to ensure the continuation of Gunditjmara culture for future generations. The project spans five separate sites: Tyrendarra Recreation Reserve, Tyrendarra IPA, Kurtonitj, Tae Rak (Lake Condah) and Budj Bim National Park.
Acting as an interpretive device, the architecture helps to make the cultural landscape legible to non-indigenous eyes, to evoke imagination about traditional ways of life and spark a desire to learn more. Views of important cultural features are framed at each site as the infrastructure leads the visitor through a curated experience of the landscape.
The restrained material palette is designed to recede, allowing the natural and cultural landscape to come to the fore. The use of consistent materials at each of the five sites reinforces the message that the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is continuous and that despite being physically fragmented by colonialisation, the sites remain connected.
On the edge of the crater at Budj Bim National Park, the lookout is designed to reveal the creation story of the Budj Bim Landscape. The axial steel mesh walls channel views of the Budj Bim summit (or high head) of the creator being. At the opposite end, it directs views down the lava flow towards the coast, while the angled stone paving on the entrance points to Deen Maar, an island that is the spiritual resting place of the Gunditjmara ancestors. Located on this culturally significant axis, the lookout tells a story of birth and death, creation and the spiritual afterlife. The weathered steel mesh that encloses the lookout on three sides appears to shift from solid to transparent depending on the viewing angle, selectively framing the culturally important features and maintaining a visual connection to the ground surface below.
The original Parks Victoria Visitor Centre at this site has also been reimagined as a starting point for tours, where visitors are introduced to the Budj Bim Landscape. The interior has been refurbished and houses an interpretive display featuring an interactive map table and AV show.
UNESCO, 2022, Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1577/
Architects: Bianca Scaife, Daniel Cooper, Tijana Dabic & Cait Phillips.
Structural & Civil Engineer: Tonkin.
Services Engineers: Integral Group.
Interpretive Designer / Graphic Designer: Lookear / Mono.
Builder: AW Nicholson
Photographer: Tess Kelly.