A $160-million upgrade to the Cradle Mountain World Heritage Area has been unanimously approved, making way for what has been described as “the Mona of [Tasmania’s] north”.
The masterplan for the project, led by architects at Cumulus Studio, was released in March 2016. Developed for the Cradle Coast Authority in conjunction with Parks & Wildlife, Kentish Council and the Tourism Industry Council, the plan proposed three key developments: a new “World Heritage Wilderness Village”, an improved-access cable car to Dove Lake, and a lakeside viewing shelter.
The initial $21-million revamp of Cradle Mountain’s “tired” infrastructure is part of a broader, $160-million redevelopment of the World Heritage site’s visitor facilities. Kentish Council unanimously approved Cumulus Studio’s proposed masterplan last week, following extensive criticism of existing facilities from tourists.
“I think everybody was a bit in favour of the development,” said Kentish Council mayor, Don Thwaites, following the approval.
At the core of the planned development is the World Heritage Wilderness Village, which comprises a visitor centre, new parks facilities, a village “hub” and information desk, an events and festival space, and an open public forecourt. Artist impressions of the village reveal a series of angular timber buildings connected by a wide central forecourt. These will replace the site’s single existing building.
Designs released by Cumulus Studio also reveal a buried viewing centre with panoramic views over Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake. While a large, visor-shaped window allows extensive views over the landscape, the viewing platform will itself be camouflaged with a grass-covered, landscaped roof.
“From an architectural perspective, it was important that the buildings were designed to be sensitive to the environment and World Heritage Values,” says Cumulus in a design statement.
“It is envisaged that the buildings should feel solid and grounded, as if sculpted from the site or carved from a solid rock by a glacier. Buildings were designed to enhance the visitor experience by revealing views and other aspects of the landscape, culminating in a chance to reflect and contemplate the environment in the viewing shelter at Dove Lake.”
The most significant aspect of the infrastructure upgrade is the creation of a cable car, to connect the Cradle Mountain visitor centre and the Dove Lake viewing platform. As it is, existing facilities and infrastructure are unable to accommodate the large number of tourists coming through the site. Cumulus Studio says that “the sense of arrival and how the new visitor centre will launch the walker, tourist or kayaker into the World Heritage Area” was central to their masterplanning process.
“I think that it can be the Mona of the north,” Tasmania’s planning minister, Peter Gutwein, told The Mercury. “It was a unanimous decision, which very much demonstrates the strong support the community has for that project.”
Construction on Cumulus Studio’s Cradle Mountain upgrade is scheduled to begin at the end of the year. The new facilities could be complete by as early as 2019.