GASP! is composed of architecture that responds to the scale of the surrounding landform. Blunt forms frame and command the superlative Tasmanian landscape. Colour and architecture have been used as a vehicle for re-evaluation and re-appreciation of place. The re-forming of the shoreline embraces the expanse of Elwick Bay, the bay becomes integral to the experience, and a unity has been created.
GASP! is designedbyTasmanianarchitects.An unusual brief and aforgotten site, the project was won through a limited competition established by GASP! CEO Pippa Dickson.
The concept for the project was created by Megan Baynes and Thomas Bailey, who previously collaborated on their own Little Big House. Working together late into the night, when small children were occasionally asleep, Baynes and Bailey put together a scheme which caught the attention of the competition jury. The concept kept things simple: a slither of walkway approximates the edge of an expansive bay. Occasional pavilions where the structure lands on ground.Adherence to curve in plan, strictly orthogonal elsewhere.
Competition led to construction and subsequent stages, with Bailey working as Project Architect to deliver a 10.5m by three kilometer project on an extremely tight budget.
In strategic proximity to MONA, on the edge of the River Derwent, the project deftly links previously marginalized sites.Similarly to many cities around the world, a major highway disconnects central Glenorchy from its water frontage. GASP!is a major new public walkway which provides the opportunity and incentive to visit an intertidal zone as it is inundated. Elevated, elongated and arcing, GASP! is literally a line the landscape. GASP! is built out over water, touching land delicately at the points and inlets that occur naturally. In addition to the novelty of traversing the bay, this alignment also serves a strategic purpose. The arcing form removes pedestrians from the adjacent Brooker highway. Away from the growl of traffic the landscape can be appreciated for what it is.
The elevated walkway offers the opportunity to inspect the texture of the water plane and see and hear the many birds which congregate along the foreshore. A small rivulet runs perpendicular to the walkway linking GASP! to Central Glenorchy, only 4 blocks away. The original competition entry highlighted the need to link the project back across existing streets to surrounding urban fabric, but at this point in time these ideas are yet to be implemented.
The new piece of walking infrastructure has encouraged a massive increase in the number of people walking, running, sitting and talking in the area. On a still warm evening hundreds can be seen strolling the length of the park or sitting and enjoying one of three pavilions which punctuate the walkway and invite people to pause and consider forested mountain ranges as they rise around the bay and define an extended landscape room.
The structure of the walkway is simple and restrained. Timber decking and railings are finished in black with the exception of the inner faces of the balustrades which are individually highlighted. Depending on whether one is walking upon or driving past the structure the effect is respectively subtle or striking as tones shift across the colour spectrum.
The Grove Pavilion is located as the arch briefly touches land. Carefully sited between mature existing trees, the low and long structure, built to the overarching curve, provides shelter and a frame to view the texture of the water and the distant river edges. The pavilion offers bbq’s plus access to sound and power services to support events held in the park. The vertical language of the balustrades is reinterpreted here with black painted faces to the outer face of the battened facade. A more restrained pallet directs ones focus to the adjacent surroundings which are framed by the extents of the building. Native grasses are being used to rehabilitate the foreshore. A small beach invites the inquisitive to step off the arc momentarily.
Moving eastward the walkway directs the visitortoWilkinsons Point. Here upon a massive industrial relic amajor new public space awaits. In the mid 20th Century a concrete platform was constructed on reclaimed land in order to facilitate the building of the nearby Bowen Bridge. Exposed and windswept the point is isolated and spectacular. The potency of this landscape gave rise to the architectural response, which can be summarized as a screen and series of frames. Massive concrete panels channel a cantilevered space with epic glazing. Again colour has been used to heighten the experience. The surface of the water becomes a pure focus highlighted by crimson glass. A yellow skylight renders the Tasmanian sky green.The far edge of the courtyard is formed by a further concrete wall containing restroom facilities. Massive wooden gates enclose the court but can be retracted to enable access during events and performances. Consistent with PippaDicksonsworld classambitions for the project GASP! has hosted artworksby Turner Prize winning artist Susan Phillipz. GASP! is used on an ongoing basis as a venue for a range community and festival events held within the Grove Pavillion and Wilkinson Point.
Given the location of the Point, remote from commercial or residential development, the experience of the architecture is often one of solitude. People walking often pause only briefly and then turn to complete their circuit. The architecture is pure. Programmatically there is very little defined, and this was an extraordinary opportunity to create an architecture which speaks to and for the superalative Tasmanian landscape.It is a moving place for anyone who wants to notice the beauty of reality.
GASP! sits like a mirage. A Master Plan was developed with a view to directing future development of adjacent vacant land. When and if these plans precipitate further construction is unclear within the vagaries of the Tasmanian economy. There is something perversely enjoyableabout this situation,which only heightens the theatrical experience of the architecture.
GASP! has been adopted by the local community. The Moonah Arts Festival which has been held for over twenty years organized itself for the first time along the waterfront. People have chosen to be been married along its length. The project has given the river edge back to the people who are now visiting this hitherto forgotten part of the city in ever expanding numbers.