Consciously designed to reflect the landscape and wildlife that frequent the area, Cumulus’s Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre is a building worthy of being viewed in the same sequence of the World Heritage Listed site that it plays host to.
Cumulus created plans for the visitor centre that would interpret the landscape and its inhabitants in an abstract manner. The centre itself is a man-made reflection of Cradle Mountain, with the triangular shaped accentuations reflecting the angular geology of the site, inviting visitors into a timber ‘cave’ of sorts. This cave is juxtaposed with a raw charcoal coloured steel exterior, which Cumulus says is part of the contrasts of nature and even what a cave can resemble: a harsh, ominous exterior, and a fascinating interior.
The practice was tasked with creating a design plan that would account for an excessive amount of foot traffic in a wilderness unprepared for visitors of such proportions. Aiming to honour the significance and sensitivity of the park, Cumulus made environment conscious decisions at every turn and designed the visitor centre for a place of many guests and minimal guests, to ensure the building felt inviting irrespective of time of year or how many people were within the area at one time.
The centre contains an orientation building, commercial services base, shuttle bus shelter and coach transit centre. An intuitive way-finding strategy adopted by Cumulus ensures visitors move easily around the site and its visitor information checkpoints. Adopting a hierarchy of space that organises services but lets the staggering natural setting sing out, Cumulus have afforded visitors the ability to move through the site fluidly while not taking away from the view of Cradle Mountain into the distance.
After many iterations and the design changing hands through various stakeholders, the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre has remained true to the original desires of Cumulus. The glacier-like buildings feel grounded within the earth, with timber the flagship material and textural choice throughout the interior, making guests feel connected to nature, as it often evokes a response other materials don’t. Despite the triangulated timber volume’s complex geometry proved a technical challenge for the practice, the centre is an exercise in designing premium public places that are breathtaking in their own right, but do not take away from the happenings in the background, that ultimately draw people to places like Cradle Mountain.