Overlooking the Bass Strait and holding a watchful gaze over those in the surf below, the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club is a distant memory of its former self. Restored by Australian architectural practice Wood Marsh, the new building is nestled amongst the dunes of the coastline and reflects its surrounding landscape with its exterior.
The timber lined outer shell of the building is a bold statement made by Wood Marsh, but one that is justified. Taking inspiration from the corrosive nature of Victoria’s sandstone coastline, the sandy-coloured vertical cladding serves the project beautifully and is a drawcard to both tourists and the local community. Corrugated iron complements the exterior further, adding a contrasted yet suitable finish alongside the cladding. The exterior materials used will not have to be retreated for approximately 50 years, thanks to the high resin content they possess.
The largely expanded program was achieved by dividing it across two levels. The bottom level doubles as a podium that grounds the building and provides an assured entrance and plays host to a range of key facilities, including the patrol room, first aid room, change rooms, surf lifesaving equipment storage and ambulance parking with direct beach access.
The top level is the building’s showpiece. From the beach, it looks as if it is floating atop the greenery that sits around the perimeter of the building. The cafe, bar and box office view of the Bass Strait are all accessible on the second floor, and it's here that Wood Marsh’s design nous comes into play. Glass panels line the interior of the space, and the floorplan is flexible and easily movable, due to a design brief asking for “operable walls and integrated acoustic treatment to provide various configurations for hosting a wide range of functions.” Looking to stretch an already small budget that was supplied by local council and the wider community, the interior echoes the sentiments of the outside, with dark acoustic cladding and smooth concrete floors adding to a simplistic yet stylish finish to a project that plays to its strengths within all aspects of the design process.
The Dune cafe takes up a third of the space on the second level. Harnessing the majority of the building’s prime view, the cafe is partly owned by the SLSC, but is a revenue-generating exercise that was a non-negotiable for local council and the club itself. The other two thirds are owned solely by the SLSC, and the flexibility of the two operable walls allowing for the club can rent the café space to hold a wedding or large party and vice versa.
Built first to ensure the safety of beachgoers was looked after, the control tower sits at the bottom of the hill and overlooks the surf with a watchful gaze. Looking very much like a protruding sandstone rock, the tower is strategically positioned for optimal outlook to patrol the beach and shelter volunteers from harsh weather. The outpost acts as a coastal beacon or landmark which through clever construction phasing provided continual surf life guarding throughout the building.
Replacing the previous structure of twenty-five years, the significant rebuilding works intuitively involved reworking the holistic functioning of the centre to foster Ocean Grove SLSC’s position as a gathering place for the community. Taking approximately a year to complete, the knock-down rebuild has future-proofed the site and become a site the community can be proud of, after being heavily consulted throughout the design process.
The Ocean Grove SLSC is living proof of community pride manufactured into a low budget, high quality project. Becoming a showpiece for locals and tourists alike, Wood Marsh’s efforts to give back to the Victorian coastline, that has been a breeding ground for beachgoers for many generations, is one of the highest quality.