Australia is the most arid continent on earth. The Murray River is Australia’s longest river at over 2,500km’s and is essential to its most important irrigated region widely known as the food bowl of the nation.
Koondrook is a small regional town (population 900) located at the midpoint of the Murray River that was a vital trading point for riverboats until the removal of the town’s wharf more than fifty years ago, when the town lost its connection to the river.
The brief called for a reinstatement of the original wharf. Our response questioned what a wharf would deliver, and why the community and local government would reinstate the original. The highly contested State and Federal regional funding contributed to this project necessitated an approach to “do it right and do it once”.
Our design maintains some historical components while providing mooring for recreational boat users, larger paddle steamers and house boats. This resonated strongly with the community and Council who had a shared interest in discovering the potential to unlock enhanced benefit for this quaint regional town.
Koondrook Wharf is more than just a wharf; it is a place to experience and reconnects the town to the river. It not only provides a greater connection between the township and the River but also exemplifies the unique location and showcases the local history.
Koondrook Wharfcomprises 5 identifiable components;
Turntable; artwork by renowned local Aboriginal artists Glenn Romanis and Esther Kirby depicts the location of Koondrook and nearby towns, tells the story of the original Aboriginal inhabitants along the River and marks the position of the original railway turntable. A timber inlay the width of Victorian rail broad gauge, references the original railway siding on site and is on axis with the town’s main street. River side of the turntable there is a 10 metre wide timber deck, flush with the ground, which connects to the wharf structure and provides space for a temporary large marquee for special events.
Viewing Platforms; made of the native Red Gum timber, the platforms‘weave’ through the existing Red Gum trees and minimise the loss of vegetation. The four platforms frame desirable views; the first back over the site of the original wharf towards the adjacent heritage listed goods shedreinterprets the approach of paddle steamers once ‘rounding up’ to the old wharf. The second up river and the third down river. The fourthto the nearby sawmill, where the sound of milling timber is part of the town’s industrial heritage. The timber decking on the platforms are all laid lengthways to appear to be ‘coming in’ from the river, making reference to how logs used to be transported from paddle steamers to the nearby sawmill.The timber viewing platforms are tied together by a wandering’ unbroken large-diameter galvanised steel handrail that emerges from the ground, subtly assists in framing the views and returns on the opposite side of Koondrook Wharf in to the river bank.
Gangway & Pontoon; the single span 28m long gangway &floating pontoon allow for river vessels to dock year round at all river levels. The wharf contends with an annual river level fluctuation of over 5 metres vertical height.
Terraced Steps; concrete aggregate steps reference the dry river bed aesthetic and connect the ‘Wharfto the river bed. They provide a space for play and enjoyment for users wanting to engage with the waters’ edge.
Memorial Piers; a series of new piers in the approximate location of the original wharf piers foregrounding the heritage listed adjacent goods shed are a reference to the former wharf and use of the site.
Koondrook Wharf demonstrates a commitment to the triple bottom line approach to sustainability – focusing on the environment, the people and the local economy.
The timber decking and structure was supplied by Arbuthnot Sawmills Pty Ltd, a local family company established in 1889. The Red Gum used on Koondrook Wharf is a sustainably managed and renewable resource - harvested within 4km of the town, then milled and air dried at the sawmill only 200 metres from the Wharf.
Koondrook Wharf responds to the community’s desire to get closer to the river and make it part of their lives. To enable this the project involved considerable community engagement with many local businesses and development groups, local residents and community members from nearby townships.
Economic modelling showed the improved infrastructure and visitor experience would create 27 full time jobs for the region and see an additional 4,000 day visitors annually. This demonstrates the considerable community benefit gained from the project.
The project team has found it rewarding to witness the community embrace the Koondrook Wharf and now take ownership of the space. Locals and tourists enjoy the various vantage points and seating nodes that spectacularly frame the Murray River and bring the township closer to this significant environmental asset. The Koondrook Wharf is testament to the power of sensitive design to facilitate community pride and bring joy to regional townships.