“We were looking at the area which sits between the surf club and the bowls club, which was previously the foreshore caravan park. There have been a number of really severe storms over a few years and we’ve lost 50 metres of heavily vegetat, dunal planting.”
This ingress had taken out Kingscliff’s distinctive and well-established Norfolk Island pines and some of the caravan parks’ cabins had needed to be craned to safer sites. As things stood, the town’s main hub which sat across the road and facing the sea was exposed to future storm events. Any solution would need to provide future protection, but clearly here was an opportunity to provide so much more than a wall between land and sea.
“Once we had the Federal funding (2015) we worked fast. Using an existing 2007 master plan created before my time, we leased a shop in Marine Parade for eight weeks to consult with the community. With that feedback we drew, reviewed and amended the masterplan to reflect both the feedback and the new conditions. The project was tendered once the community where happy with the final design, then we played a role in the project’s supervision as it was being built over a 14 month period.
Ian makes it sound easy, and to be fair, there were no major hiccups along the way. But no project is easy. “We provide detailed documentation, that way there is no room for assumptions: problems tend to arise when you are vague. We’d meet with the site supervisor three times a week to help interpret the details of the design. It’s something I carry from my years previously in private practice. The result is worth it.”
During construction, shuttering and pumps allowed the seven metre high barrier to be put into place. Thoughtful design and the beach restored means this moment isn’t a monstrous barrier between land and sea but rather an invitation to move from one to the other.
Analysing the new landscape and all the elements within it, it’s obvious why these site meetings were necessary. There is a lot going on here that needed careful supervision to get just right. Take the main barrier works for example. To minimise damage from storm events in years to come, the seven metre high barrier wall has been designed and engineered to withstand the force of the waves, but at the same time encourage people onto the beach. Where the caravan park was once in the way, now that it has been moved to one side, anyone walking down the main street can easily drift across the new central park and wander down onto the beach on a whim.
A brilliant breakfast bar, above and words & steps below.
With that main box ticked, Ian and his team then designed in the details inspired by the community consultation. “It was a simple brief. People wanted a village feel with space for formal events as well as informal activities – to kick a ball and have a barbeque. Council is kick starting the program of formal events with opera in the park, an outdoor cinema and a market but the community will soon take over.” As for the other deft touches, they’re already being appreciated. The shade structures, the options for sitting with a take-away coffee (at a breakfast style bar or in the shade), any number of seats where you can chat to someone or happily lounge while people-watching. And all has been thought through from a longevity and maintenance view-point so that durable materials prevail. Even as the constructions fencing was being removed, the community was connected with the space, not only through the consultative process during its design, but through Ian’s deft but light touch: key Kingscliff-centric words etched into the beach steps; the community’s chosen 13 word description of what locals like about their town, marked into the paving.
Yes, it’s a successful project for all these reasons. “We could design to the lowest common denominator, but I try to push the boundaries. If you use imagination and think about the detail, people will enjoy the result. It’s a case of, I don’t know why I like being here but I just do.”
As part of this project, all the storm water run off had to be collected – not piped into the ocean. Under water sensitive urban design principles, large garden beds were drawn into the plans to retain water after rainfall events. Initially Ian anticipated these garden beds would be excavated and filled with an imported mix of sandy loam. Instead, tests were made of the existing sandy soil and with some adjustments – organic matter was added along with the soil conditioner TerraCottem – the native species plantings were able to go in and have since thrived. The significant savings this offered meant funds were freed up for some bespoke finishes elsewhere in the project – for example, the glorious blue-tiled Gaudiesque walls.
Custom built and painstakingly hand tiled, bubbles and waves of blue-tiled feature walls and in-built seating ripples through the new foreshore park.