Ideas: projects, writing, research, thinking

A Restaurant in Sheep’s Clothing

Posted by On Feb 20, 2015 In Projects Tags , , , ,

Every now and again a lovely little architectural project comes out of left field, or in this case, out of a Hunter Valley field. We’ve been giving some advice to a small Hunter Valley winery for about a year, with Melissa Wilson Landscape Architects. The advice was mostly related to site planning, construction of new landscape elements and how to re-invigorate the existing winery building, which is essentially a big metal shed, but this was a winery with bigger ideas. This trundled along slowly last year as everyone got their heads around potential strategies, ideas and the scale of what we were dealing with. The internal organisation of the existing building was proving to be a hindrance to the ambitions of the clients and priorities shifted to building a new barbecue restaurant. I said it was a winery with plans.

Some background.
The winery is located in Rothbury near Pokolbin, with views to the west and south west to the Brokenback Range, vines stretch out to the north from the winery. The winery is little more than a large metal shed built about 18 years ago and was not designed with the bigger ambitions in mind. It suffices to say the shed does not have an internal planning strategy suited to the current plans for the winery. It probably also goes without saying that there are many miscellaneous farm buildings, in various states of repair, scattered across the vineyard. Scattered about are 5 cottages which were built around 40 years ago and draw their architectural inspiration, shall we say, from the original Hunter and regional NSW building forms. The cottages are rented for overnight accommodation and I can vouch for their comfort, less so for their architectural legacy. Nevertheless the cottages are important to the winery’s architectural heritage and the clients see them as important to the vision of any new building.

Cottage available for overnight accommodation at the winery.

Cottage available for overnight accommodation at the winery.

First stage…
the aforementioned barbecue restaurant. It is envisaged that the restaurant will be the first in a series of buildings and/or facilities catering to people with a food fetish as well as to the ever present function market. The immediate challenge, apart from the relatively complex design brief, was looking to be how we were going to design a building drawing upon the greater Hunter’s architectural heritage, whilst not reducing the experience to kitsch. Furthermore the desire for views was going to be a little tricky to achieve in the solid and wonderful timber slab buildings of yesteryear. Plus! consideration of the boring “back of house” commercial kitchen stuff, like exhaust stacks, was going to be critical in the success of the design.

We henceforth dived into the research and sought out the past…

…we got really lucky and came across an extraordinary collection of photographs in the National Library of Australia by Wes Stacey. The collection is primarily of timber buildings, taken across Australia between 1968 and 1972. It’s a wonderful wonderful collection, delightful images and/or delightful buildings. It’s well worth a look if you have the time. You can find it here: http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn5010444
Wes “you little ripper!” you revealed our first epiphany. Amongst his images we found a terrific little slab hut at Tyrrells Vineyard.

Angled view of slab hut at Tyrrell's Vineyard Hunter Valley

Angled view of slab hut at Tyrrell’s Vineyard Hunter Valley

Here was a diagram showing how to incorporate the kitchen and associated requirements. In this building the fireplace becomes a feature adding to the character of the building, rather than a grievous element to be suppressed. In this, we now have a strategy that will become one of the drivers of our building design – brick chimney forms enveloping building services and perhaps even the entire kitchen. We then disappeared down a rabbit-hole delighting in more and more traditional chimney forms.

Traditional chimney forms on buildings from regional NSW.

Traditional chimney forms on buildings from regional NSW.

So after a little sip from the bottle labeled “Drink Me” we emerged to revel in more black and white loveliness from Wes Stacey, focussing more upon the overall idea for the building. A restaurant sitting in a field of vines is a particular thing, it is a public building, it needs to have a public presence, a public scale, it can’t be like a cottage, not really, not at all. Indeed, it needs to be more like a sheep shed. Oh dear! Another rabbit-hole. This one filled with images of sheep sheds and woolsheds. It was a nice hole, filled with inspiration…

A series of 3 Sheep or Wool Sheds photographed by Wes Stacey in regional NSW

Sheep Sheds in regional NSW

Luckily, we had enough for another sip from our bottle and we emerged to an internal dialogue (if that’s possible, which apparently it is). It was asking questions about the severe north westerly winds and the summer sun. Oh, and a concern gor building in stages also popped its head out of the rabbit hole. We avoided the rabbit hole, but took account of the comment. We were very happy to find some more black and white finery showing courtyards and collections of buildings. This might work, the images whispered. Actually I’m pretty sure they didn’t, I’m now doubting what was in the bottle.

View of the courtyard, distant view and verandah of the the homestead at Balala Station, Uralla

Various views of homestead at Balala Station, Uralla

Design is now well under way. All the strange little bottles are back in the cupboard and a field of yellowtrace paper stretches out before us. We don’t really have anything much we want you to look at too closely before we know what we’re doing. So we’ll do you a little mosaic and if you squint you might get an idea of where we’re heading (and when you do, please drop us an email, we’d like to know too).

Early design concepts for the barbecue restaurant.

Sketch plans and computer models of initial design ideas.

  • Images:
    Panorama: Author’s own
  • Cottage: Author’s own
  • Angled view of slab hut, Tyrrells Vineyard Hunter Valley: Wes Stacey, National Library of Australia Archives
  • Traditional chimney forms form regional NSW: Scans from Historic Homesteads of NSW published by Australian Council of National Trusts 1976
  • Sheep Sheds in regional NSW: Wes Stacey, National Library of Australia Archives
  • Homestead at Balala Station, Urala: Wes Stacey, National Library of Australia Archives
  • All drawings and CGI images by Redshift

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