an ALTIS ARCHITECTURE project
Nothing ‘joined’ about Junction — Moama Bowling Club’s newest venue.
6 Shaw Street, Moama NSW
Story: Christopher Holder
Photos: James Geer
It seems ludicrous now but there was a time when poker machines were a novelty. As someone brought up in northern Victoria in the ’70s and ’80s (when pokies were verboten), it was common knowledge that bussing coachloads of senior citizens north of the border for a day at the pokies was big business. One of the most desirable destinations was the Moama Bowling Club, just over the Murray from the historic Echuca river port. Of course, nowadays poker machines are about as novel as the common cold and it takes more than the promise of a day with a one-armed bandit to attract a crowd. Progressive clubs and RSLs know this and they’re investing heavily in their bars and restaurants, as well as their meeting and events offering.
Moama Bowling Club (MBC) is a progressive club and has recently completed a significant $3.5m renovation. What makes it so significant is in the positioning and branding of the renovations. MBC hasn’t simply smartened up a restaurant, it’s launched a whole new venue, that, if not physically separate, is certainly separate in just about every other regard. It’s called Junction, and you won’t find it on the MBC website.
ARM’S LENGTH BOWLS
“We essentially run Junction as a separate business,” says MBC Operations Manager Liam Fleming. “We have our own Junction marketing team, Junction chefs, our own Junction manager, even the uniforms of Junction are completely different. This separation is purely because Junction attracts an entirely different crowd to the rest of the club.
“To help us with our branding we engaged a marketing company called Seesaw. They’re not an outfit we’ve used before but we wanted fresh eyes and fresh ideas. It’s worked well. The Junction in-house marketing team gets to focus on what works. For example, the club marketing team will be more about traditional media while Junction concentrates more of its energy on social media.”
JUNCTION: NEW DIRECTION
Junction would be just as at home in Melbourne, Sydney or even New York: Head Chef, Michael Giarrusso’s casual dining menu has clearly been well considered, with some great sharing options. The architecture and design is fresh, innovative and hasn’t the merest whiff of ‘clubs’ about it. The service is slick and hip. The branding is well resolved and consistent. The beers are boutique and abounding in hops. Northbridge, Fortitude Valley, Fitzroy, Newtown… doesn’t matter, Junction feels like the place to be.
And yet, there’s plenty about Junction that’s of its place — namely, a relaxed, beautiful part of the world where people choose to live to not contend with the New York-minute fast pace of the city, which is why the landscaping is so significant.
“The gardens and the Junction exterior is the first thing you see when you cross the bridge into Moama,” observes MBC Operations Manager Liam Fleming. “The landscaping, with the water features and courtyard, set the tone.”
“We think of Junction as a pavilion set in landscaped gardens,” concurs Tony Maluccio. Tony is one of the Altis Architecture team behind the design, headed up by Andrew O’Connell, and also includes Lyndel Sardelic, Victor Cheung and Erica Covolan. “And from a design perspective and the featured palette of materials all connect with Moama. Whether it’s the reclaimed brick or the steel that references the nearby train line. ”
Altis Architecture has enjoyed a long alliance with MBC, and knowing the club’s history and DNA assisted in the process, something not lost on Food & Beverage Manager Simon Griffin: “Altis created a design to fit our vision of a forward thinking venue with unique design and relevance to our local area. The additional design detail they provided made the final project such a success. The relationship Altis had with our local builders were a testament to what Altis stands for and delivers, which helped all parties come together and achieve this fantastic venue.”
INTERIORS: NO TV
Ah, yes, the detail. There’s plenty to love about the Altis eye for detail in the Junction design. And the choice of materials is fastidious: The reclaimed brickwork, the reclaimed timber from orchard fruit bins, the velvet granite bar top, and the concrete floor tiles, they all help create an earthy yet refined interior unsullied by the merest hint of a big telly. “That was explicit in the original brief, and part of learning from our mistakes — relaxed casual dining and televised sport don’t mix,” observes Liam Fleming.
What’s more, it’s the distinctive furniture that gives the Junction design an additional lift. One look at the custom designed dining chairs, barstools, tables and dry bars and you wonder why so many venues opt for the ubiquitous replica Tolix chair when, with just a little more care, you can have something that sets you apart. The Junction custom furniture design was the work of Abeo Design in consultation with Altis Architecture — both should take a bow.
A DJ spins chilled lounge music on a Friday and Saturday night. The volume never rises beyond the point of impinging on enthusiastic chatter. The audio install reflects that fact — a Bose distributed background music system. Bose weather resistant speakers also fill the courtyard with sound.
BRIDGE NOT TOO FAR
Being over the bridge into NSW was, for many years, the Moama Bowling Club’s biggest asset — a short hop from wowser Victoria to the Eldorado of poker machines. Now, that bridge is one of the club’s biggest challenges in attracting a fresh clientele.
“Realistically, it’s only 100m, but it’s a big thing to get people over the bridge,” concedes Liam Fleming. “Which is why we’ve poured so much effort into Junction. We knew it had to be something special, and it needed to be backed up by great services and a great product.
“Thankfully, the local customers have really embraced it. We opened just prior to Christmas 2014, rode the wave of the busy Summer season… and been flat out ever since.”
Altis Architecture (Architecture & Interior/Landscape Design Collaboration): (02) 9364 9000 or altisarchitecture.com
Abeo Design (Styling, Furniture Design & Interior/Landscape Design Collaboration)
KGB Constructions (Builder)
Northrop Engineers (Services)
Arcadia Landscape Architecture
Quantum Design International (F&B Consultant)
Seesaw Studio (Marketing & Brand Strategy)