Design team appointed for Arthur Boyd’s Riversdale expansion

The Bundanon Trust has announced the winning team of an architectural competition to design the $28.5-million expansion of Arthur Boyd’s Riversdale property in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales.

The jury unanimously supported the selection of a team led by Kerstin Thompson Architects with Wraight and Associates, Craig Burton, Atelier 10 and Irwin Consulting, from six shortlisted contenders.

Boyd’s Riversdale site is home to a collection of historic buildings as well as the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre designed in 1999 by Glenn Murcutt, Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark. The expansion will include a new accommodation wing, creative learning centre, visitor hub and a new gallery that will house more than 3,800 items by Arthur Boyd and other Australian artists including Sidney Nolan, Charles Blackman, Brett Whiteley and John Perceval.

The competition to deliver the masterplan, prepared by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, was unusual in that it did not seek a final design but rather a philosophy, process and vision.

Kerstin Thompson Architects’ philosophy includes the “idea of continuum,” particularly in “ecological, historical and cultural terms.”

“The site has had a number of chapters in its history and this is just the next one,” principal Kerstin Thompson said.

The Boyd Education Centre at Riversdale designed by Glenn Murcutt, Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark.

The Boyd Education Centre at Riversdale designed by Glenn Murcutt, Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark.

Image: Keith Saunders

She said the experience of the place would be a primary driver of the design, rather than a compulsion to create iconic architecture. “We didn’t necessarily think that iconic is the answer,” she said. “[The design] can have subtlety and restraint to it in that the new architecture is more of a vehicle for setting up one’s relationship to the site, to the output of Boyd and appreciation of that.

“Clearly, how Boyd rendered the Australian landscape through his work has changed how we in turn see the landscape,” Thompson continued. “The way he painted it communicated other qualities [that are] not just visual – the sense of heat and dryness, or the sense of turbulence and change, whether through flooding or fire.

“I think if we can use the buildings and the landscapes to really amplify one’s experience of the place and how dynamic it is, then there are other ways you engage with the artwork. There are things that some of the artworks communicate and architecture has a great capacity to do the same. It’s the fundamentals of architecture, really.”

John Denton, jury chair, said the appointment of Kerstin Thompson Architects “reflects the sympathetic and artistically aligned approach and philosophy of their proposal to the site’s landscape character and cultural significance.”

A view towards the river at Riversdale.

A view towards the river at Riversdale.

Image: Courtesy Bundanon Trust

Kerstin Thompson Architects will work in tandem with New Zealand landscape architecture practice Wraight Associates and Australian landscape architect Craig Burton. “Combining a thorough local knowledge with a foreigner’s eye is a way in which you really draw out what is most remarkable about this place and this landscape,” Thompson said. “If we look at why Shoalhaven as a region has been of such great interest to a whole lineage of painters and artists, especially in the 19th century, it was partly this fascination with what was seen as a very primordial and unusual landscape. So that’s also another part of our team building.”

The Boyd Education Centre at Riversdale designed by Glenn Murcutt, Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark.

The Boyd Education Centre at Riversdale designed by Glenn Murcutt, Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark.

Image: Keith Saunders

Riversdale is one of four sites on a 1100-hectare property gifted to the Australian people by the late artist Arthur Boyd in 1993. The Bundanon Trust manages the sites on behalf of the Australian government. In April 2016, the Bundanon Trust announced plans for a $28.5 million expansion of its Riversdale property, which attracted criticism from architects Brit Andresen, Richard LePlastrier, Peter Stutchbury and Lindsay Johnston. In an open letter, the group questioned whether the development proposed for the site disregarded the wishes of Arthur and Yvonne Boyd, threatened the landscape that inspired Boyd’s work, and ignored the accomplishments of Murcutt, Lewin and Lark.

Kerstin Thompson emphasized the design team’s approach would be “respectful of and sensitive to what’s gone before,” and that the team could potentially engage with the architects of the Boyd Education Centre. “There are a number of stakeholders in this project and they are among them. We have said that we would be happy to engage [with them] if that was seen as appropriate by the Trust.”

The competition for the design of the expansion was endorsed by the Australian Institute of Architects and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.

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