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.
Raised boardwalks minimize disturbance of the soil, plants and the cultural artefacts at each site, allowing views of the ground below, while withstanding cultural burns and seasonal flooding. The path of the boardwalk is carefully designed to skirt around ancient fishing sites, dated to over 6000 years old. Viewing platforms are strategically located along the boardwalk and are shaped to act as apertures for observing fragile remnants of stone fishtraps. A circle of bluestone paving forms a threshold at each point where a boardwalk meets the ground plane.
The bird hide extends the notion of a viewing aperture further in the form of a semi-enclosed shelter. It is another point at which visitors are encouraged to stop and contemplate the Budj Bim landscape, while observing native bird life. The layered entrance creates a light screen as visitors step through the gold arched entry then around a curved weathered steel wall into the intimate enclosure of the hide, where a viewing slot frames a panorama of the Budj Bim landscape.
UNESCO, 2022, Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1577/
Architects: Daniel Cooper, Bianca Scaife, Tijana Dabic & Cait Phillips.
Structural & Civil Engineer: Tonkin.
Interpretive Designer / Graphic Designer: Lookear / Mono.
Landscape Architect: Site Office.
Quantity Surveyor: WT Partnership.
Building Surveyor: Beaton Building Consultancy.
Land Surveyor: Brayley & Hayes.
Archaeologist: Ecology & Heritage Partners.
Project Manager: Accuraco.
Builder: AW Nicholson.
Photographer: Tess Kelly (except image 3 by CSA).