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Visitor centre rises from park’s ashes

The large indentation from a volcano is also an attraction, along with the nearby Siding Springs Observatory.

The choice of sandstone responds to nearby craggy mountain ranges and rock faces.

The choice of sandstone responds to nearby craggy mountain ranges and rock faces.Credit:Brett Boardman

When the fire came through, the former visitor centre, built in the 1980s, was also destroyed, hence this commission by the National Parks and Wildlife Services of New South Wales.

“We were extremely conscious of creating a robust building that could stand up to any future fires and one that one that felt integral to this unique landscape,” says Kibble, who also worked with landscape architects Context, in framing the new centre and, importantly, the Indigenous elders and the local community on this project.

Although TKD Architects could have simply used the previous foundations to locate the new centre, it was mindful of setting up vistas that celebrated some of the most dramatic features of the park.

The choice of sandstone was also born of responding to the craggy mountain ranges and rock faces.

With the hero views towards the south, the mountain ranges and features such as the “bread knife”, TKD Architects designed monumental sandstone blade walls on the north-west elevation (up to five metres in height) combined with a generous glazed pavilion on the southern side.

Visitors can enter the centre two ways: one leading into the exhibition spaces, the other that leads to a path to the camping areas (one of the most popular times of the year is Easter after the summer heat starts to dissipate).

“We wanted to create quite a cavernous space, where people can come out of the heat,” says Kibble, who extended the chunky sandstone walls into the centre, with black-painted ceilings and polished concrete floors adding to a more sombre palette.

Large port-hole-shaped skylights add diffused light to the interior.

However, even before one enters the centre, it’s clearly signposted both in name and, importantly, with built-in glass display cases explaining some of the history of the site.

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On the northern elevation is a magical built-in steel and timber bench that follows the contour of the stone wall, complete with a steel canopy above.

“This area is often used by educational groups or students visiting the park,” says Kibble.

Although the visitor centre is relatively modest in scale, comprising two exhibition areas, an office, a reception area/store and toilets, it has become an important addition to the national park.

While the fire destroyed many of the species, there has been a concerted effort to reintroduce endemic species back into the park.

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A model of the terrain has been created in a glass cabinet, with the topography being more crystalline after the vegetation was removed in 2013.

The Warrumbungle National Park Visitor Centre is one of the more modest projects emanating from TKD’s practice.

However, for Kibble and his team, he was delighted to be at the helm of this project.

“It took us to a place we don’t often visit and enabled us to experience the park, as much as being part of the restoration process,” says Kibble.

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