The Smiths Beach Surf Life Saving Tower was required to provide that most basic of architectural intents, shelter from the weather. The success of the design however was to meet a wide range of additional brief requirements: beach safety, a space for first aid provision, a relocatable structure, prefabricated construction type, seasonal use, wildlife conservation and a protected coastal location. The tower is used by up to five life savers during the active summer season, for the rest of the year the structure is closed. Smiths Beach is patrolled as an outpost of the Woolamai Surf Lifesaving Club it is a challenging location due to the absence vehicle access and water craft launching opportunity.
The tower now provides protection from the weather and a space for first aid services but also storage for equipment and importantly a visible patrol presence when opened up. Located on the exposed coastal park edge of Phillip Island the site is included as part of the protected Phillip Island Nature Parks and is a key habitat for migratory Shearwater birds. The tower is designed to withstand its highly exposed coastal environment while at the same time having a quiet presence in this beautiful and very public location.
The structure has no discernible front or rear and is designed to be viewed in the round. The drum form is accentuated with angled weathered Ironbark fins that conceal a highly durable corrugated metal facade. The location and extent of the long-glazed opening was carefully determined with the club to ensure views of the high-risk areas of the water as well as the popular sections of the beach. The shutters are opened at the start of patrol and then closed at the end of the day and for the entire off season. The shutters provide important protection from vandalism but also function as a signifier of an active patrol, much like the yellow and red flags located on the beach as part of each patrol.
The sensitive nature of the site due to the protection of native vegetation and habitation by Shearwater birds dictated that the siting be minimally disruptive and the tower be fabricated off-site and craned into location from the adjacent carpark. The tower was also required to be designed as a relocatable structure so that it could be moved at some point in the future. The detailed design needed to carefully consider limitations on the weight and size of the structure due to transport. Lifesaving clubs are an entirely volunteer run organisations and it has been an honour to be involved in a project for which the members have worked so hard to achieve and for which they are incredibly proud of.