While being formally distinct from each other, the Equestrian Centre, Covered Arena and Polocrosse Pavilion at Willinga Park are underpinned by a cohesive set of principles that prioritise site, scale, program and materiality. The project brief? Nothing "horsey".
The Equestrian Centre complex consists of thirty stables, two dressage arenas, a covered roundyard and walker, hydrotherapy pool, equine health facilities, and associated staff and rider’s areas.
The Covered Arena has a seating capacity of approximately one thousand spectators, VIP and media boxes, and two full sized dressage arenas, one of which is roofed.
Both buildings attempt to negotiate the significant scale required for the facilities within the established trees and topography without compromising functionality and the wellbeing of the end user and, of course, the horses. Light and ventilation became central drivers in both designs, ultimately contributing to the sculptural forms and the quality of the interior and covered spaces.
At the Equestrian centre, the roofs were developed to capture coastal breezes, maximising the use of natural ventilation whilst still providing the necessary shelter for the equine residents.
The sawtooth roof section at the Covered Arena was a similarly pragmatic response in its conception. In addition to providing a feasible structural strategy capable of accommodating the large spans, the clerestory openings give opportunity to provide natural light under the large ninety by forty-metre expanse of roof proper.
The Polocrosse Pavilion, on the other hand, is a structure of a more modest scale. There is a kitchen and servery, amenities, storage and service areas.
It is an event pavilion that sits atop a purpose built grass embankment which allows spectators to have a clear view of the field.
The covered space itself is relatively limited when compared with the aforementioned buildings. However, the fundamental question of how to sympathetically accommodate for a large facility, in this case a polocrosse field the size of four football pitches, within the landscape remained.
Along with issues of scale, program and site, the three buildings also share a common sense of materiality that embraces the dynamic nature of materials as they weather with time. Stone and insitu concrete were used for wall elements that literally engage the topography, in turn creating plateaus and usable space.
The spontaneous nature of their surfaces communicates their role as a mediating element between building and ground.
The robust textures of these elements are offset by the timber, steel and copper used in the structure and cladding of the roofs and canopies. Soft materials were sparingly introduced in the interior spaces, but overall the palette remained, ultimately augmenting the connection to the exterior and landscape beyond.
As series of public buildings the Equestrian centre, Covered Arena and Polocrosse Pavilion demonstrate an approach to building large facilities in the landscape for year round use and events. It is an approach that was inspired by the scale of the landscape itself.
Furthermore, it denies preconceived notions of architecture and landscape being separate, striving instead to create a total environment for people, horses and nature. In the end, they are buildings of the landscape.