by Zohra KhanMar 05, 2021
Levelled on an ashlar lined plinth sitting atop a picturesque, contoured site, the RACV Cape Schanck resort is a leisure destination with a strong architectural statement that is iconic from the get-go. That iconicity is also a significant part of the brief delivered to the Melbourne-based Wood Marsh Architecture, who sought to mine it through the authenticity of the building’s site and its unusual geography, merging rolling dunes and low hills with a famous coastline. Describing the topography as “untamed”, the architects at Wood Marsh have designed the resort to be sinuously curved, bulging out at the ends of a trifecta it seems to be planned around, while the material palette: an eclectic mix between stone, metal, and glass, reflects the literally corrosive nature of the region’s shoreline, south of Australia.
The resort is nestled within a natural saddle adjacent to Bass Strait on the Mornington peninsula, and offers world-class facilities in its premise, including a 120-room hotel, a gym, a luxury day spa, multiple restaurants, and a golf club along with a golf course. Through an elegant and highly functional, responsive design, the hotel looks to entice more than just guests for the resort; to also rope in new user bases through a targeted strategy to lend social, economic, employment, and environmental benefits to the region, previously lacking a facility of this nature and scale. Thus, being mindful of the regenerative impact of the building, physical and otherwise, on its site and surroundings, the resort finds its footing on a previously distressed setting, and sensitively sits within the extensive dune system of the local ecology without disturbing it. The development was also carefully managed to preserve the habitat of the local lizard and orchard species indigenous to the area.
The approach to the site from afar paints a rather pretty picture, with the building first coming into view as a monolith; the hull of a massive ship washed ashore; an inconspicuous part of the coast’s landform, alienated and eroded over time. Ensconced partially within the plinth composed of locally sourced stone is an entire floor of services and amenities, bearing a structurally glazed podium, with the sweeping steel arcs held above it in a rustic enigma.
The curvaceous profile of the two 'bases' lends to an almost cellular arrangement of rooms and their accompanying balconies harnessing stunning views. The interesting, nearly Y-shaped geometry of the hotel’s design is a befitting play to the building’s perspective on approach, pointing the Port Phillip Bay towards the North and to the Bass Strait in the South. In essence, despite the sheer expanse of the structure, the full scale of the building is never revealed owing to the partial submerging in land, and the avenues it offers.
Entry to the building is gained through the glass podium itself, literally reflective of its landscape, while at the same time providing a visual break: almost a reflective illusion of there being nothing between the solidity of the plinth and the wave like sweeps above in weathering corten steel. Additionally, the podium level is offset a few metres from the stone plinth, protected by dramatically curving overhangs from the floors above, seeking to capitalise on the panoramic views for the conference facilities, restaurant, and lounges it houses with the resultant terraces. The floors above, however, remain typical in plan while being morphed entirely as opposed to ‘shrunk’, leaving two spatially complementing terraces as well, resembling a distorted yin-yang.
Internally, the layout is beset on the residential floors for guests with curving corridors between rooms, a welcome break from the unyielding linear perspectives of hotel lobbies. On the public floors, the spaces follow a fluid hierarchy and segregation, resulting in an outward-oriented layout and impressive views for major amenities on the ground floor. The recreational and café facilities too open directly onto the outdoor recreational areas, while indoor pools, saunas, a gymnasium, day spas, and a plunge pool round up the RACV resort’s impressive line-up of both public and private amenities.