Set against a sloping hillside in Bundanon near Nowra, New South Wales, an intriguing structure rises from the wooded and undulating landscape. Part trestle bridge, part rural shed, the dark steel-clad building is bold and purposeful, yet seems at one with its surroundings. Completed in early 2022, the striking building forms part of the recently opened Bundanon Art Museum, which was constructed on 1100 hectares of land that renowned Australian painter, Arthur Boyd and wife, Yvonne, gifted the nation in 1993.

New works at the property comprise of site infrastructure and two buildings – the Art Museum, which is embedded in the landscape and houses the Bundanon Trust’s $46 million collection of Arthur Boyd artworks, and ‘The Bridge’, both structures placing the local ecology at the centre of their design. The Bridge is used as a creative learning centre for school children and also provides accommodation – it’s suspended high above a gully in an area prone to flooding.

The project was conceived by leading Melbourne architectural firm, Kerstin Thompson Architects (KTA), who carefully balanced aesthetic requirements with the need to deliver buildings that would be resistant to both flooding and bushfires. KTA architect Lloyd McCathie said that the design brief called for the realisation of the client’s purpose: to foster an appreciation of art in the landscape in line with Arthur Boyd’s vision.

“The design addresses how buildings and landscapes can be resilient and resistant,” Lloyd said.

“Both structures needed to be resistant to fire and resilient to flood, wind, and sun; in particular The Bridge (a 165-metre-long by 9-metre-wide structure), where in the spirit of Boyd’s practice of painting ‘en plein air’, climate variation is central to visitor experience.”

Fielders ARAMAX – a picture perfect choice for The Bridge

Fielders ARAMAX was the roofing material of choice for The Bridge. This steel roofing profile is becoming a popular choice for commercial and industrial building applications, where its rigidity, long-spanning qualities and low maintenance benefits are finding favour with architects and industrial designers.

ARAMAX steel roof

“The ARAMAX roof with its clear spans over The Bridge, functions as a parasol, shading the breezeway spaces and accommodation rooms, which have their own independent roofs below, while allowing air flow and views of the landscape along the length of the Bridge,” Lloyd explained.

“The long spans of ARAMAX also removed the need for additional structural steel framing. This meant that the purity and clarity of the roof as a parasol was evident along the length of The Bridge, uninterrupted by additional steel members.

“The roof was deliberately lifted above The Bridge allowing light and air penetration into the spaces below – the profile of the elevated ARAMAX cuts a datum across the site, registering the roof against the landscape. To reinforce this principle, ARAMAX was specified as galvanised finish, while the structure, which supports it, is painted black.

“A custom underslung gutter was also designed thanks to the design freedom allowed by the ARAMAX parameters.”

As well as helping to meet the design vision for the project, ARAMAX delivered the required performance measures when it came to BAL requirements and having low-maintenance qualities. At the time of the Black Summer Fires during the 2019-20 bushfire season, fires came within a kilometre of the location, which reinforced the need to incorporate high bushfire resistance in any future builds.

“ARAMAX was selected for its robustness, resilience and longevity in the context of a remote, flood and bushfire-prone environment. Low maintenance, integrated colour materials were selected to reduce reapplication of finishes over time,” Lloyd explained.

“Being located in a bushfire prone area, The Bridge was required to be BAL29 – as a parasol room, the ARAMAX needed to be non-combustible.

“Bundanon is a regional site, and the client also needed low maintenance materials to reduce the ongoing operational costs, and minimise risks associated with material and labour availability at a regional location.”

The construction process using ARAMAX also had advantages according to the architect, with the sheets delivered to site preformed and in the required lengths, allowing fast and efficient installation. The successful application of Fielders ARAMAX has also led KTA to evaluate its use for several of the consultancy’s new projects, including perforated ARAMAX as facade cladding for a tertiary institution.