Cape Otway Equestrian 

This project marked a shift in typological thinking in facility design for our practice. The client came to us with a requirement for a small stable and mounting area with a tack room and feed store areas associated with a riding arena, but with the stipulation of creating a ‘free’ shelter area off the paddock as part of the structure so the horses could come and go as they needed. The site was in an open paddock on a farm that offered eco-tourism at the edge of the Cape Otway National Park, and there were a number of tight planning controls that we needed to work within. The property was also subject to unusual weather patterns, and its remoteness meant there was difficulty accessing off-the-shelf materials. The clients had recently completed a timber and mud-brick house on the property and so were prepared to manufacture many of the materials and details for the project themselves.

We met the brief with a uniquely designed structure and plan layout that utilised all of our developed research regarding connection, herd hierarchy, sightlines, shelter, ventilation, function and safety. The structure was regualrised grid for ease of construction but with a series of asymmetrically planned integrated areas that were functionally related but adapted to context and siting concerns. The structure was designed to be self-bracing using the roof, so all of the walls could be non-load bearing, for ease of adaptation and change in later years to suit new needs. A long Messmate timber wall faces the main road as well as the prevailing weather, with specially planned openings for sight and refuge for the horses. A series of interconnected yards allows the owners to mediate use between the sections of the facility, which are planned for an open horse areas at the south end, to more controlled human/horse areas at the north end. This approach to structure, planning and the equine-centric focus of free-use and materiality became the prototype for new and larger projects. 

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