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Australian Garden Shelters

July 31, 2013

BKK Architects designs a series of distinctive shelters for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne that respond to the landscape context, both conceptually and physically.

The Australia Gardens Shelters were an opportunity to engage with one of the nation’s most unique landscape projects: the Royal Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne in Melbourne, Australia’s only botanical gardens to feature solely Australian native plants. Rather than present a collection of plantings in a museum-style setting, the landscape has been designed, reinterpreted and presented under a conceptual framework that is posed as “a transition from the relatively unoccupied interior to the more constructed coastlines”.

In contrast to most architectural commissions, the architecture responds directly to the landscape context both conceptually and physically. The designs for the structures explore notions of what shelter is and the history of shelter from its most primitive forms to the more contemporary vernacular.

The first shelter is a simple covered seating area that operates as a gateway to the Gondwana area. A weathered corten steel shell provides a protective enclosure, and its weathered exterior is contrasted by the warm, timber-lined interior.

The second shelter is a located within the Gondwana section of the gardens, which represents a pre-human Australian setting. The structure appears almost as though it has evolved out of the landscape. A curved series of tree trunks forms an interior space, while a large, wafer-thin steel roof appears to hover above them like a piece of leaf-litter.

The third and largest shelter is a kiosk, rest facility and children’s education area. This structure is located in the most ‘constructed’ landscape zone, which represents a more urban setting within the gardens. It is a reinterpretation of the Australian vernacular shed, where a corrugated external structure sits independently from the program within. The interiors are layered, from the rich timber interior facade that is part interior/part exterior, to the brightly coloured kiosk and the plywood/stainless steel-clad toilets.

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