This design is a response to two questions; firstly how can we design for ‘flood immunity’ without creating something that is over-scaled, difficult to access and incongruent with the picturesque township of Kenilworth? Secondly how can we create a memorable and destinational place out of a humble road side toilet block that is in harmony with the natural beauty of the area?
What if we approached ‘flood immunity’ differently? Rather than elevating the toilet block a full 4m above the natural ground level, what if we were to elevate it to the 1 in 20 year flood level to minimise maintenance loads and design for the more severe flood events by simply allowing the building to flood and drain without causing damage to the building both functionally and aesthetically? Bringing the building back down to earth significantly improves the building’s usability, aesthetic value and reduces its visual impact. It also gives us an opportunity to work with the inherent beauty of the Mary River ecosystem which is intertwined with the local experience of Kenilworth.
What if this toilet block was not just a place for relief, but also for education about the local ecology? Working with flora that have evolved and adapted to the rhythms and intensities of Mary River’s flood events we surprise visitors with their own private garden composed of the riparian flora found along the river’s banks. Aside from being beautiful these private gardens also act as natural filtration systems for runoff during a hose-down.
These gardens are contained within undulating brick walls that subtly allude to the quintessential Australian red brick house as well as the familiar cylindrical rainwater tanks that occasionally dot the landscape. This glazed red brick wall offers a robust, vandal resistant, low maintenance surface that is rugged enough to be easily hosed down after a severe flood event without any loss of aesthetic value. Its earthy red tones and matching coloured mortar will work with the natural patina that will accumulate over time. Highly robust, vandal resistant stainless steel fixtures complement the concrete and brick. During larger flood events these fixtures can be washed down without any long term damage. The height of the proposed toilet block is such that all electricals are installed safely above the Q100 level.
This design is intentionally subtle and of the place. It speaks to the natural beauty of the locality and relies on the element of surprise and delight to create a unique and memorable moment for visitors, one that they will no doubt share with those that will listen.