Queensland is experiencing a marked increase in resilience architecture.
In Brisbane especially, the prevalence of architecture that is resistant to floods and other such natural disasters is notably greater than anywhere else in the country. While it is understandable, given the effects flooding has had on Australia’s northeastern state, the industry has gone above and beyond what was expected in response to the potential threats.
Architectural firm Cox Rayner is one of the leaders in the move towards a more resilient built environment, taking on a key role in developments of this nature after firm director Michael Rayner’s family home was flooded at the beginning of last year.
The firm has thrown itself behind resilience concepts, including the designs of the ‘new Queenslander’, a highly resilient modernised interpretation of the traditional Queensland home and, more recently, the development of Brisbane’s West End Ferry Terminal, a piece of key water infrastructure that was lost in the 2011 floods.
The ferry terminal moves away from the traditional model of cementing the infrastructure heavily into the ground, instead adapting to its surroundings, changing the way the original ferry terminal responds to nature.
Designed with a sense of minimalism, the ferry terminal is formed with no solid walls or heavy architectural barriers. There is a sense of continuity and flow that replicates the surrounding water.
Recycled soft woods have been used to clad the main structural form, emphasising the organic aesthetic of the building. A hardier concrete base has been used to ensure stability and durability.
Extended structural features such as the gangway and pontoon are able to sink well below the waterline in events of extreme weather to protect them from possible damage from floating objects.
The new terminal sets a precedent for future works of this nature that Cox Rayner, in collaboration with Aurecon and Derlot, plans to undertake.
Former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh praised the group for their modern vision that is expected to drastically improve the safety of state water-based infrastructure.
“It offers a highly innovative maritime approach, that replaces the previous traditional fully piled structure with a floating pontoon structure tethered to a single up-stream pier,” Bligh told Parliament.
Moving forward in 2013, such highly adaptable ferry terminals will be implemented under the guidance of the collaborative team after they won a state design competition for the large infrastructure tenders. According to Rayner, the vision for these future terminals is simple yet highly effective in its overall responsiveness and resilience to damage.
“It is our belief that the physical solution needs to be as simple as possible, that is, without complication in its response to future floods or potentially cyclones,” he says. “We wanted to enable the gangways to swivel around to the direction of the current thereby avoiding the build-up of debris.”
Rayner further explains the joint vision that grew from the experience of losing his house in the flooding.
“It first occurred to me why private pontoons could simply float over their piers and out into the river torrent, and why they were not tethered in some way that retained them,” says Rayner. “There were many other observations that I made first hand as my house submerged, such as the varying impacts of debris and the sheer force of the current.”
Queensland’s commitment to resilience architecture is commendable and promises to set the standard for national initiatives of this nature.
The first-hand experience of these architects in dealing with natural disasters offers them insight into what is lacking in current built structures while giving them added incentive to come completely on board with developing to safeguard against them.