LODGE ON THE LAKE
Design competition to rethink the Prime Minister's Lodge in Canberra
For the past hundred years, Canberra has had a tradition of building campus type pavilions within the field of the Walter Burley Griffin masterplan for the city. Notable exceptions exist that eschew the pavilion type such as the Gallery of Australian design and new Parliament House. By contrast, these buildings bury themselves in subservience to one of Burley Griffin’s powerful axes as it passes overhead. This tradition of building (pavilion or otherwise) seems to embark with a sense of history that is, at least superficially, colonial in nature - marginalising the history of the place that came before the European colonisation of the region of the Molonglo river and its flood plains.
Whilst this project does not seek to disregard modern Burley Griffin Canberra - clearly an important layer of history - it does decline to be defined by relation to the masterplans determining geometries. Our building instead seeks to make a gesture at the scale of the landscape and to make architecture as ‘landform’ in the broadest possible sense. Landscape is adopted as a principle of design for its democratising qualities and resonance with all cultures. Landforms have the capacity to become receptacles of meaning and cultural significance and at our most optimistic we would also claim that landscapes deflect Western notions of private land ownership.
The starting point is an observation of the dominant landform within the prescribed site boundaries - a plateau that forms a peninsula running North-South, slightly below the crest rising to the South. This plateau is selected as an ideal campsite, a landscape that is then formalised by the building project. The first move of occupation is to form a hard edge to the South and West and to exploit the Northeast prospect toward the lake. This manoeuvre generates a platonic solid that is gradually eroded to define various territories across the site. The result is a series of connected external courts and outdoor rooms which mediate between the various parts of built program. These external spaces present as open, democratic and accessible, whilst access into them remains carefully controlled to ensure security. Aside from these few formalised courts, the majority of the landscape remains more-or-less untouched. Various elements such as the tennis court, boathouse, pool, and pair of look out follies are scattered as destination points across the site, connected by promenades that are defined by the subtle intervention of selective planting.