Calder Woodburn Rest Area
BKK Architects has paid joyous homage to the great Australian corrugated dunny with this transformation of a drab, roadside amenities block.
Architect: BKK Architects
Project Team: Julian Kosloff, Tim Black, Simon Knott, Rory Hyde, Stephanie Bullock
Landscape Architects: VicRoads Landscape and Urban Design
Awards: Australian Institute of Architects Victoria COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture 2009; CCAA Public Domain Award 2009 – Public Artworks
Building Size: 549m2 (covered roof area)
Words: Peter Hyatt
Photography: John Gollings
Roadside rest stops often mean instant coffee, doughnuts and an urgently required toilet break. On approach to Shepparton from Melbourne on the Goulburn Valley Highway, the Calder Woodburn Rest Area (CWRA) is an exquisite relief.
Robust, yet keenly finessed, this ensemble of lightweight structures evokes an era when modernism was in top gear; when exuberant design was central to the great road trip.
If ever there is the opportunity for an architect to cut and run, a roadside toilet and amenities block is it.
Taking their cue for the road between Melbourne and Shepparton – a distance of some 180 kilometres – BKK Architects of Melbourne has delivered an absolute treat for its client, VicRoads, and the thousands of motorists who will be grateful that someone actually bothered to invest design in this typically ignored type.
Cumbersome and ponderous amenities blocks have always had a place in the hearts of the long-distance road traveller and that is what makes BKK’s efforts such a show-stopper. There will always be party poopers unable to imagine, or much less care, that such an essential public service should demonstrate any flair.
Practice Director Julian Kosloff says CWRA was an opportunity to imbue the project with a value not normally associated with roadside rest-areas. “We were really interested in the 1950s American roadside diners, Australian service stations and roadside comfort amenities that are such a part of the travelling experience.”
Kosloff says the rest stop is part of a grand cultural institution made famous by iconic symbols such as the big guitar, big prawn, the big banana and big pineapple. “In its own way this is Shepparton’s homage to that tradition,” he says.
Architecture is often a subconscious experience and it’s the memory or recollection of the past that gives modernity meaning.
The striped canopy of Stramit Xtraspan™ 900 made from COLORBOND® steel has an almost carnival tent quality.
“Standing beneath the roof there is a sense of something quite modernist and soaring, yet viewed from a distance the building conveys another language of road-building and agricultural sheds.”
Steel was an obvious language for the architects to achieve the level of strength and fit within the landscape.
“Steel allowed us to achieve the cantilevered roof, which appears disconnected from the facilities below, as well as the random scatter of columns,” Kosloff says. “There is a dexterity of material and its ability to defy gravity.”
The floating rippled steel roof and ceiling/soffit utilises Stramit Xtraspan™ 900 made from COLORBOND® steel in the colours Nightsky®* and Surfmist®. Stramit Xtraspan™ 900 was also used for in-situ formwork on the corrugated concrete pod ‘skins’ to develop a consistent language and material typology. The resulting flat and curvilinear forms are light-catchers and shadow-makers that work in juxtaposition. Raking and reflected daylight dances in and around these mini-‘silos’ to provide a more visible, secure environment.
The great patterned roofing made from COLORBOND® steel held aloft by a bare minimum of means – patterned and punctuated with apertures – deftly introduces vertical daylight. It is this sense of prevailing lightness that is the dominant experience of floating fabric held aloft by simple means using steel columns, with factory-applied paint finish in Dulux light metallic grey.
The variegated stripe of the corrugated steel echoes the furrowed earth. A fully convincing structural and surface rhythm is created by the concrete pods cast from Stramit Xtraspan™ 900 in COLORBOND® steel to provide a precisely authentic surface profile.
One of the key advantages associated with using steel was the ability to shop draw and produce precise construction elements in a factory setting for on-site assembly. “We worked closely with the shop drawer because it is quite a complex form,” Kosloff explains.
“For example, each corner of the roof has a different height, which gives it a twisting, warped effect.” Working in this way meant the components of the complex job were pre-fabricated prior to delivery, and then easily slotted together, like Meccano.
In that hour of need, here is a rest-stop with a difference.