A dramatic new hotel with award-winning design and a contemporary art museum partially embedded in the natural landscape are two excellent reasons to visit Bundanon— the former home of influential Australian artist Arthur Boyd— on the Shoalhaven River.
By Daniela Frangos
In a small rural town on the south coast of New South Wales, two and a half hours from Sydney, an imposing black structure juts out of the bucolic landscape.
The dramatic blackbutt timber bridge spans 160 metres across two hillocks with a gully and trestled limbs beneath. Inside, it contains accommodation for up to 64 guests, a cafe, and sweeping views over the Shoalhaven River.
The Bridge is one of two new facilities unveiled earlier this year at Bundanon, the former property of influential Australian artist Arthur Boyd and his wife Yvonne, who gifted 1100 hectares of land to the public back in 1993, leading to the creation of the government-funded Bundanon Trust (the couple also donated their extensive art collection and copyright to Boyd’s entire catalogue).
It’s joined by a partially subterranean, contemporary art museum featuring a year-round program of exhibitions and new commissions, and a state-of-the-art storage facility housing and protecting a $46 million art collection.
The design by Kerstin Thompson Architects—awarded the prestigious Sulman Medal for public architecture at the NSW Architecture Awards—responds to the landscape (and the effects of climate change) with a structure that’s resistant to bushfires and floods.
Fires came within one kilometre of the property in January 2020, threatening its main collection of works plus those of Boyd contemporaries Sidney Nolan, John Perceval, Charles Blackman and more.
The museum and its collection are embedded in the side of a hill, protected on three sides and from above, while The Bridge draws on flood ‘trestle’ bridges as inspiration, with a design that supports the natural water flow through the valley.
The facility is powered by solar panels and uses local materials, passive temperature management and a black water treatment system.
Unlike a regular hotel, The Bridge can only be experienced via immersive multi-day packages that include accommodation, tours of the museum, historic properties and natural environment, and dining experiences that champion South Coast produce. You can also book into wellbeing retreats, workshops and other cultural experiences with local Traditional Custodians.
“It’s always about connecting with the site,” says Kent, who hopes Bundanon could become an international art destination like Japan’s art island, Naoshima. “[When people come] they can see the exhibitions and the collection, have lunch, do bushwalks on the property, take part in workshops and so on. There are many different ways to engage.”
She adds: “The way Kerstin and the team have responded to the landscape and to environmental factors is quite visionary, and very sensitive. It’s a series of buildings and public spaces that are integrated and immersed within the surrounding landscape—they respond to it, they sit comfortably within it, they don’t dominate.”