Architecture & Interior Design

Rugged Simplicity & Unrefined Comfort

Pumphouse Point, TAS, Australia

Emily Hunt

Adam Gibson, Stuart Gibson & Sharyn Carins

An adaptive reuse project encapsulating rugged simplicity and unrefined comfort.

Situated on the edge of the Western Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area, lies Pumphouse Point – originally an industrial facility which has been brought back to life, not as a pump house but as a unique accommodation experience suspended over the pristine lake.

The pristine water of Lake St Clair provides a stunning backdrop for the unique Pumphouse Point accommodation.

The site contains two existing, heritage listed art-deco style buildings; The Pumphouse and The Shorehouse. Both buildings were constructed in the 1940’s as part of Tasmania’s Hydro Electric scheme, originally designed to pump water from Lake St Clair to the neighbouring St Clair Lagoon in order to fuel the Tarraleah Power Station. However, this use was never realised and after almost 50 years, The Pumphouse was decommissioned when the site was granted a World Heritage status. Consequently, The Pumphouse remained unoccupied for a further 20 years before Cumulus Studio were engaged.

The 3 storey Shorehouse sits on the edge of the lake, nestled within the lush greenery of surrounding trees.

The Pumphouse Point project by Cumulus Studio involved the adaptive reuse and refurbishment of the original Pumphouse Point buildings into a wilderness retreat. In its short life, the redevelopment has already become a signature project for Tasmanian Tourism. Seamlessly inserted within the original off-form concrete envelopes are eighteen new self-contained guest suites – twelve of these are situated in The Pumphouse, while the remaining six are within The Shorehouse. The Shorehouse also holds the communal lounge and dining space.

The seamless combination of old and new is echoed through the circulation space between guest suites.

The 3-storey Pumphouse is perched alone at the end of a 250m concrete flume – the only connection The Pumphouse has to land. The Shorehouse is positioned at the beginning of the flume, on the edge of the lake and acts as a threshold for guests staying in The Pumphouse accommodation.

The 250m concrete flume provides the only connection the Pumphouse has to land, intensifying the journey from the shore to the guest suites.

When approaching The Pumphouse, guests are surrounded purely by mountains and water, allowing them to be fully immersed in the Tasmanian wilderness and amplifying the sense of arrival. Guests then enter the foyer through solid metals doors and are bought softly into the comfort of the suites – separating them from the rawness of the wilderness outside. The guest suites flank the two outer wings, leaving the central core devoted to communal lounge areas – being open at both ends, The Pumphouse allows the site-line that begins at the flume to continue right through the building and out to Lake St Clair.

Full height windows at the end of the communal lounge area allow the site line that begins at the flume to continue right through the building.

The high heritage value of the existing buildings has been maintained, with only very minimal work being done to the exterior of the buildings, thus creating a stunning contrast between the new interiors and the original concrete shell. The distressed condition in which the building envelopes remain reflects the beautiful harshness of the environment in which they are located. Working within existing parameters that were originally designed for a completely different function, required careful thought in order to manipulate the internal area to balance the required spaces. Significant co-ordination was also required to ensure structural solutions were employed that worked with the high acoustic performance required for the suites.

The entry lobby showcases locally sourced Tasmanian timber panelling – demonstrating the rugged simplicity of the Tasmania wilderness and brings the outside in.

The material and product selection is subtle throughout the building. A neutral palette is used to characterise a rugged simplicity and uncomplicated comfort with natural materials being favoured where possible. Local Tasmanian timber has been used throughout the building; untreated and rough sawn in the communal spaces and in a more refined manner in the guest suites as veneer panelling.

Simple detailing using honest materials enhances the warmth of the Local Tasmanian timber. Timber is used in a more refined manner as a feature wall in the guest suites – providing a sense of warmth and uncomplicated comfort.

The locally sourced timber, as well as features such as exposed servicing pipework in the entry space and exposed copper plumbing in the suites allude to the rich history of the place. The timber reflecting the formwork of off-form concrete and the pipes referring to the water which once pumped through the core of the building. The thermal mass of the original concrete buildings combined with the relatively consistent temperature of the lake have been utilised, allowing the buildings to rely on natural ventilation and only require localised space heating during winter.

Despite the project being located within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Pumphouse Point was never envisioned to be an ‘eco-lodge’ or purely showcase environmental credentials. Rather, the architecture provides a wilderness retreat which enables guests to experience the natural environment first-hand by many who would not otherwise take the opportunity.

The exposed copper plumping in the guest suites allude to the rich history of the place; and when combined with the dark wall tiling a beautiful contrast is created.

Modest furnishings in the guest suits allow for the natural materials to be showcased and encourages guests soak up the wildness outside.

 AWARDS | The project won the 2015 Tasmanian Architecture Awards: Award for Commercial Architecture, Gourmet Traveller Regional Hotel of the Year, and the Property Development Award (Tasmania) and Heritage Property Award (Tasmania) at the 2015 API Excellence in Property Awards.

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