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RACV Inverloch

RACV is obviously better known as a company to call when you’ve blown a gasket or in need of some insurance. But currently it’s expanding and diversifying the resort side of its business. The Inverloch resort undoubtedly represents a step up in quality and is definitely a world away from the ‘power point and shower block’ motoring holidays of yore.The resort sprawls over a 32-hectare site, but the main lodge building is the highlight, containing 26 rooms, a dining facility and a conferencing facility. Then there are self-contained villas and a caravan park with 32 sites, 12 of which have an ensuite.RACV Inverloch Resort is architecturally designed with a simple philosophy of a limited palette of materials used to achieve something relaxed and modern. Natural timber, including blackwood, Victorian ash, yellow stringybark and spotted gum, exposed aggregate pre-cast concrete, eco-ply and zinc combine to create the look. The dining room in the main lodge is clad with wrap around glass, which reveals spectacular panoramic ocean views.RACV gave the Inverloch job to GHD Architecture. GHD is a big practice that distinguishes itself by offering the full gamut of services including interior design, landscape architecture, engineering, environmental and geotechnical services, town planning, technology, traffic engineering… they’ll come back and program your VCR if you stipulate it in the contract. venue spoke to GHD Design Director and Project Leader Paul Thatcher about the look and feel of the new resort.
venue: A resort is, by definition, a self- contained holiday destination. But how does that manifest  itself in the design?
Paul Thatcher: We were looking for a high degree of privacy and all of our guest rooms face the ocean. It means that you can open the doors onto your room’s deck and overlook the wetland to views across the bay, and you think you’re the only one there. Even the villas, they’re very low density, and when the vegetation matures you’ll think you’re the only one there. The way I imagine it: you finish work on Friday; back up and drive down the coast; you start to relax as you head into the bush and then down the resort’s gravel road. Then, after you’ve made your way down the boardwalk and into your cabin you’ve entirely removed yourself from the city and the city experience. You’re secluded; surrounded by bush and enjoying the views. That’s the intention.
venue: Being a bush setting I imagine quite a bit of environmental sensitivity has gone into the design?
PT: For a start, we’re only utilising two or three percent of the site for building footprints. So that makes it quite a special project in that sense. And the buildings were designed with the environment in mind. The materials, low energy principles, cross ventilation, natural ventilation, light; all of those principles were part of the original brief and requirement of the project. So you’re right, minimising the ecological and environmental impact was important. It’s worth remembering that most of the site was cattle grazing land. So we’re not clearing bush, RACV is, in fact, investing quite heavily in a revegetation program.
venue: Can you tell us some more about the design?
PT: We really wanted to respect the existing characteristics of the site, not to dominate it. So we’ve got low-profile, low-slung buildings — all single storey — with no big roof volumes. Also we’ve tried to be very minimalist in our approach to the design with simple use of materials, and simple shapes. But it’s also very contemporary, very today. We’ve pushed the boundaries a bit on the client’s original expectations of a bushy, country feel. We’ve tried to be very contemporary and minimalist.
venue: What are the highlights from your perspective?
PT: I’m particularly proud of the main dining room, which has almost full wraparound double glazing — full-height, two levels high. And we’ve withheld the view until you actually enter the building. So as you make your way along the entry driveway you come up behind the building. You’re not exposed to the outlook until you enter the building, and then this two-level outlook suddenly confronts you. We could have just run the road up where you can see the beach, but instead we’ve thought: ‘let’s withhold that, and then reveal it’.Also in our recreation building we have a pool with wraparound glazing, which can be opened to make it an outdoor pool in summer. And the way we’ve designed the pool and the wet deck, the water merges with the view of the ocean in the background — it feels like you’re floating in the ocean.

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