Shiro Architects’ KDV Golf and Tennis Academy project consisted of a $20-million overhaul of the existing Carrara Gardens Golf Course facility. The 12-hectare site now forms a significant part of the Gold Coast City Council’s plan for the wider Gold Coast Sporting Precinct, which is partly to accommodate the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The academy’s redevelopment represents a doubling of the precinct’s size.
The brief specified that the facility must be able to support both serious and casual athletic pursuits. Recreational space for the community, such as barbecues and physically-oriented outdoor leisure spaces, were to supplement the on-site sporting amenities.
Shiro’s design was a single, flexible plan that accommodated multiple uses. Taking inspiration from Mies van der Rohe’s concept of an “architecture of silence”, the design centres around a free-standing building that is open to many sides, with many links to nature as a result.
The “floating cube” design of the main structure is an attempt to minimise the visual impact of the facility on the surrounding landscape, while capitalising on natural scenery.
“The design for the KDV Golf and Tennis Academy is symbolic of what we express in our architectural philosophy. I tried to come up with an airy, transparent design, because on the site we have really good scenery behind us, so why would anyone want to close it off from the freeway?” says architect, Hiromi Lauren.
The material choices reflect a desire for transparency and reflection. The architecture shies from outshining the landscape, and the purpose of the centre is on show as its internal activities are rendered visible from the outside.
“Transparency and reflection bring the outside environment into the building, to which exposed concrete creates contrast, with the mirrored soffit drawing the image of the sky onto its glass walls,” says Shiro in a design statement.
“The reflections enable the building to announce itself from a distance, giving it a presence greater than its envelope and clearly framing the activities […] taking place within.”
The illusion that the structure is floating comes from a careful placement of the concrete floor slab on an even grid of slender columns. Internal pods have been placed to backlight the building, further contributing to the cube’s light-looking footing on its vertically aligned base.
A series of external pavilion pods create a “buffer zone” between training and recreation spaces. This distinction between uses is visually reinforced through a gradation of materials. Solid concrete and metal distinguish professional zones from the family areas, which are defined by transparent glass and white pavilion pods.
“[KDV’s] use of light and mirrors frames the background scenery, to present a building that is operationally friendly and as open and transparent as possible, and that somehow puts an envelope around this beautiful landscape,” says project director, Wim Steenbeek.
“We didn’t want to end up with a design that would block the view from the road, but one which is innovative and clean that would open it up. As they drive past, people can actually look through the building and see those within using the gym, see them hitting a golf ball, or on a tennis court.”
Preliminary assessments for the project focused on its visual impact, with the chief requirement being that it was to have zero impact upon flood hydraulics in the area. Extensive hydraulic modelling was undertaken to ensure this wasn’t an issue.
The roof is designed to be flat with minimal fascia depth and a lack of protruding eaves or gutters. This further minimises the building’s visual impact on the landscape.
The landscape design relies on a simple, relatively neutral palette of colours and materials, with planting used to create interest around the grounds. A mixture of plant species, forms and breeds were selected to reinforce the site’s riverine context and provide climatic comfort to visitors.
According to the architects, extensive sustainability initiatives were incorporated not because they were required by site specifications, but as a result of the client’s own sense of ethics.
“Extensive water harvesting and solar panels were demanded not by regulation, but by the client’s business philosophy,” says Shiro. “To promote longevity, the sustainable design responds to the site’s location within a floodplain, guiding the selection of hardy, flood-tolerant plants and materials that require minimal ongoing maintenance.”
Stormwater is collected and treated through a combination of water-harvesting tanks, passive irrigation swales and a lake with floating wetland. Collected rainwater is then reused throughout the development. During the day, the design achieves 100 percent solar usage.
In June, the KDV Golf and Tennis Academy was named winner of the commercial architecture category at the 2017 Queensland Architecture Awards.