[Text as submitted by architect] The Cradle Mountain Gateway Precinct represents the first stage of the Cradle Mountain MasterPlan completed by Cumulus Studio and tourism strategists Inspired by Marketing in 2016. Designed to offer an alpine village feel, the new precinct replaces the single existing visitor centre with a series of new structures and services. The ‘alpine village’ includes a new visitor centre, orientation building, commercial services base, shuttle bus shelter, and coach transit centre, sitting on the edge of the Cradle Mountain National Park.
The Gateway Precinct establishes a sense of anticipation on arrival. While accommodating for growing tourist numbers and changing customer needs, the new buildings have been designed to adequately reflect the world-renowned Cradle Mountain visitor experience. Recognising the significance and sensitivity of the site, key elements of the surrounding natural environment informed the design. Each new structure feels solid and grounded, with sharp geometric forms reflecting distinctive Cradle Mountain geology. Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre is a building of contrasts. It’s imposing but harmonious. It’s an abstract interpretation of nature. And it’s modern with a rightness unrooted in time. Most surprising of all, perhaps, is how the raw exterior unwinds into a warm, soft, delicate timber lining.
With wild rainforests, rolling grasslands and roaming Tassie Devils, it’s no surprise Cradle Mountain entices a surging number of visitors. But how can you design a meaningful visitor experience in a footprint never intended to accommodate that number of guests? The Visitor Centre is the first development in a major plan to reimagine the iconic Cradle Mountain experience. The Visitor Centre offers a warm alpine welcome to reflect both the sense of rugged-up anticipation on arrival and the distinctive Cradle Mountain geology. The sculptural, wilderness-inspired development includes an orientation building, commercial services base, shuttle bus shelter and coach transit centre. At every turn, we aimed to honour the significance and sensitivity of this world-renowned national park. Materials to mirror nature We designed the buildings to feel grounded, as if carved from a solid rock by a glacier. The umbrella rain-screen form references the folding angular geology of the site, inviting visitors into the cave-like timber interior. The choice of timber for the interior was about the poetics and qualities of the place. Because timber is natural, guests feel connected to nature. It often evokes a response other materials don’t. Measured tourists footprints
The design required an in-depth understanding of visitor movements across the site. It needed to accommodate the wide gap between peak and average visitor numbers and feel inviting in both cases. Our intuitive way-finding strategy creates a flow to subtly guide visitors while they interact with site interpretation and visitor information. We used a hierarchy of space that organises services but lets the staggering natural setting sing out. No mountain high enough The Visitor Centre design went through many iterations as more stakeholders saw the project’s potential. But we’re proud the essence and guiding goals remained constant throughout, even as other aspects shifted around them. It’s quite a feeling to walk inside the sculpted interior timber cave, a completely unexpected gem inside the building. Whilst the triangulated timber volume’s complex geometry proved a technical challenge, it’s all the more satisfying to admire it now knowing the hard work involved.