A journey within a journey
The iconic Puffing Billy Railway is a much-loved tourist attraction located within the Dandenong Ranges, 40 kilometres east of Melbourne. Emerald Lake Park is a scenic destination for many, centrally located on the railway. The importance of this stop on the railway was recognised with the decision to build a new Discovery Centre consisting of a café, commercial kitchen, visitor information services, interpretations, function rooms, staff offices, retail, educational facilities and amenities. The project brings together train enthusiasts and local park goers, creating a unique tourism amenity offering which collects the many users of the site in a single but complex building.
The complex brief resulted in a building larger than would have historically been located on the railway line. The decision was made to design a new spatial experience and a unique geometry that is distinct from the old train stations, but one that depended on the relationship between visitors and the train platform for its organisational logic.
Master plan: Detachment problem Lakeside Discovery Centre should not be detached from the existing Lakeside Station. Rather. How can it intrinsically grow out. Of what already are the special qualities of Puffing Billy Railway at Lakeside?.. And benefiting the existing Lakeside Station precinct that’s inundated in the increasingly busy times.
Competition idea: extension of the platform The device for extending Lakeside station with the new Discovery Centre is the platform, aligned to and foregrounding the hero of this place - the Puffing Railway experience.
Meandering journey The platform is manipulated to preserve significant trees that are critical of the identity of the bush setting, whilst providing enhanced spaces track side and views over Puffing Billy Railway trains, people and activity, and beyond to Emerald Lake. Embodying the meandering rail route through the landscape, the visitors journey is nuanced around the bush landscape.
Linear plan arrangement The linear arrangement of function is simple, legible and accessible. The many visitor types are catered for; the everyday Puffing Billy visitor, and Park users. Within the logical arrangement are many options such as flexible to separately zone use areas, and centralised ticketing, retail and F&B operations.
Internal iconography: trestle bridge Discovery becomes the experience that ties everything together along and uninterrupted discovery space that is inspired bu the long winding trestle bridges that are so important for the Puffing Billy image and experience. This space structures a journey that constantly reveals the park and bush dimensions of Lakeside. A warm timber interior (recalling the bridges) houses a drastic train and local fauna installation along its entire length. The discovery space also becomes a meeting point between visitors and the many committed volunteers.