The Bundanon Trust manages four properties near Nowra, NSW, which have been given to Australia by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd. At one of these, Riversdale, a residential education centre for schoolchildren has been built on a hillside sloping down to the Shoalhaven River. It is sited near the Boyds’ earlier houses and studio, and marks a line of transition between natural bush above and cultivated lawns below. The building combines an assembly hall, forecourt and amphitheatre with a dormitory wing to sleep 32 students. Construction is concrete with timber, plywood and steel finishes.
A major work exhibiting the masterly simplicity and resolution that characterises Murcutt’s best buildings. The centre is both heroic and retreating; from the dramatic announcement of the rearing roof canopy of the forecourt to the modest austerity of the sleeping units. Most compelling is the building’s conversation with the site, which takes part primarily between the building and landforms, and the overlay of the man-made and natural images through the inspired locations of openings between the building masses and penetrations in the wall planes.
Through Arthur Boyd’s paintings, the landscape in which this extraordinary, uplifting building sits is already part of the Australian consciousness. For any architect this site would be a rare gift and it is one which Murcutt, Lewin and Lark obviously cherish. Their building is a glorious exercise in framing; every space and window lovingly captures the views Arthur Boyd was driven to paint over and over again. Its roofline gently traces the sweep of the hills beyond and the building’s scale magically complements surrounding structures, both natural and man-made. Like a great artist’s work, it invites us to look at it from every angle and explore every corner.
This modest yet stunning project embodies the complexities of Australianness. It is strong and fragile, of the past and future, deferring to the site yet standing out—an education building in the full sense
Images: John Gollings
Glenn Murcutt with Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark
Civil and structural engineer James Taylor and Associates
Electrical engineer Shelmerdines Consulting Engineers
Heritage consultant The Bundanon Trus
Hydraulic engineer Harris Page
Landscape architect Schaffer Barnsley
Ordinance consultant The Hendry Group
Quantity surveyor David Wallace, Northcroft (Australia)
Water management Dr Peter Bacon, Woodlots & Wetlands
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Category Public / commercial
The Bundanon Trust.