The project involved the adaptive reuse of Pumphouse Point into a wilderness retreat.
Located just inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Pumphouse Point was originally constructed as part of Tasmania’s hydro electric scheme and has been unused for over twenty years before being redeveloped.
The redevelopment, which has already become a signature project for Tasmanian tourism, involved the adaptive reuse and refurbishment of two existing, heritage listed, off-form concrete art deco buildings - ‘The Pumphouse’ and ‘The Shorehouse’ - into a wilderness retreat.
The Pumphouse, a three storey building originally constructed in the 1940s to house pump turbines, sits on Lake St Clair at the end of a 250m concrete flume which is its only connection to land. The Shorehouse, located at the start of the flume on the edge of the lake, was constructed at the same time and accommodated offices and a maintenance workshop for the turbines. Eighteen new guest suites have been inserted within the existing concrete building envelopes - twelve of these are located in The Pumphouse and the remaining six are within The Shorehouse. The Shorehouse also accommodates the prep kitchen and main communal lounge / dining room.
Only minimal work has been done to the exterior of the buildings. This is a deliberate response to maintain the high heritage value of the existing buildings and to emphasise the contrast between the new interiors and the exterior - their distressed condition a testament to the harsh environment in which they are located.
The approach to The Pumphouse building, surrounded by mountains and water, heightens the anticipation and sense of arrival. Guests pass through solid metal doors into the entry foyer - an intermediate zone through which guests are brought gently into the comfort of the suites from the rawness of the wilderness outside. The twelve studio-sized suites run lengthways down the two outer wings, leaving the central core devoted to communal lounge areas on each level, open at both ends so that the sight-line that begins from the flume continues through the building.
A simple neutral palette has been used throughout in order to characterise a rugged simplicity and uncomplicated comfort into which the guests retreat. The untreated rough-sawn hardwood and exposed servicing pipework of the entry and common spaces subtly give way to more refined Tasmanian timber veneer panelling and exposed bent copper plumbing in the suites. These items also allude to the history of the place - the timber formwork of the off-form concrete and water once pumping through the core of the building.
The project has been achieved on an extremely tight budget in a remote location which required a large amount of site servicing and infrastructure. Simple construction techniques were utilised and opportunities for standardisation and prefabrication sought through joinery and fittings. Working within existing enclosures that were originally designed for very different functions, a large amount of effort was spent manipulating the internal spaces to balance private and common spaces.. Significant co-ordination was also required to ensure an efficient structural solutions that worked with the high acoustic performance required for the suites.