Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre
CHROFI

The gesture of ‘The Ring’ is inspired by elements of the landscape masterplan by Taylor Cullity Lethlean. It incorporates the entrance threshold, arbour walk, visitor’s centre, wind break walls, belvedere stair, children’s play and parterre garden into a unified and synergistic form that unlocks a range of new social and experiential possibilities. The Ring embraces the landscape, at times it is anchored to the ground to provide shelter from the elements across the changing seasons, at other times it soars overhead to offer an elevated walkway with commanding views over the broader gardens.  The topography is subtly dished at the centre of The Ring to allow views into the parterre from the surrounding walkway as well as from ‘The Villa’ and ‘The Entry Pavilion’ while enhancing the protection The Ring provides from the prevailing westerly winds. This shift in the landform has been designed to work with the natural topography and minimise the need to bring additional fill to the site.
 
The strength of The Ring as a figure allows the stage 1 development of the botanic gardens to become a memorable destination in of itself. The containment of the vibrant parterre garden allows the various functions of the visitor’s centre to have a rich outlook in the short term while the broader gardens takes shape as part of stage 2. It is a figure that inspires curiosity and wonder both as an object in a field of wild grass as well as something that reveals itself through the dappled understory of tree canopies that will surround the future gardens.
 
As the colours of the parterre garden gradually reveals itself to visitors on approach, ‘The Entry Pavilion’ greets newcomers with food and beverage offerings and information points. A hole-in-the-wall cafe and information kiosk provides snacks and coffee for a quick bite while a destinational restaurant with panoramic views over the parterre and the future gardens invites visitors into a dining experience that will be unique to the Southern Highlands. This restaurant is also positioned to capture sun in the winter while a generous overhang and operable glass doors allows for a shaded indoor/outdoor dining experience in the summer. A partially covered generous gathering space with terraced seating steps provides an ideal meeting point for large groups and guided tours while a covered colonnade walkway leads visitors towards the main entry of ‘The Villa’.
 
The Villa is a multi-purpose hall that occupies a prime position within the ring with an axial relationship to the parterre and the botanic garden’s main lawn. An indoor/outdoor veranda surrounds a highly functional ‘box’ of program with layers of operability to comfortably accommodate a wide variety of uses across the different seasonal climate conditions. The Villa is reminiscent of the grand estates that gave Bowral its distinctive picturesque garden heritage. It is a multi-purpose civic space with commanding views across the parterre and over the botanic gardens. It is designed to become a well-known and highly desired venue for events such as weddings, corporate functions, talks, cocktail parties and shows.
 
The separation of The Villa and The Entry Pavilion is a key strategic move, one that allows the unique identities of each to complement each other as a pair, captured within the broader figure of The Ring. It also allows the two to operate independently, with different tenancies, the option of different operating hours and, if necessary, different construction timeframes.
 
This architecture is conceived a place that amplifies the essential qualities that are unique to the Southern Highlands. It is an enduring architecture, memorable both in its clarity and its distinctiveness, timeless in its expression, both nostalgic and contemporary. It is an architecture that seeks to connect across generations.

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Project Status: Competition Entry
Project Role: Architect, Lead Designer
Project Team: Max Kamlah, Roberto Fattoretto  
Project Directors: John Choi
Project Year: 2017

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