BIG ROCK JETTY - Upper Kangaroo River, Australia
BIG ROCK is a 140 acre property two hours drive from Sydney. It is a place where owners and their friends escape from the city on a weekly basis to indulge in activities close to nature.
There is a small creek along which a bush walk has been created , full of tree ferns providing an overhead canopy. There is a river with a swimming hole, near which echidnas have their burrow. When the river dries out you swim in the dam just below the grape vines. The grape vines produce wine which is of intense richness as the summer is hot and dry. Staying at Big Rock you bushwalk, ride bikes, fish in the dam, but most importantly you immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. You watch the kangaroos gathering at the edge of the dam in the early morning, you watch the fog lifting on every winter morning, you listen to kookaburras and you watch the beautiful sunsets that occur almost every day. When driving during the day you need to be careful not to run over a turtle or a snake, at night you have to watch out not to hit a wombat crossing the road. As is common in rural Australia scanning the horizon provides little evidence of any signs of human activity.
The above average rainfall gives strong potency to the nature that is visible everywhere in Kangaroo Valley. It takes some time to understand that dry looking grass is a natural colour for Australian grass and trees do not provide much shade. The forest you look at is very transparent to light and not solid dark green and trees need to be observed from a close distance to be fully appreciated. What we call a river may carry water only after the rain, and with no seasons the trees shed bark instead of leaves. Jetty/Gazebo is a small structure located to be in the centre of those activities.
The location of the jetty/gazebo is on the edge between the dam and forest, away from larger open spaces. The line formed by the edge of the forest is followed by a sandstone edge to the water. The jetty is suspended above the water and the gazebo is suspended toward the trees.
Horizontality is the dominant element of the composition with three components: the surface of the water, the decking and the roof. The structure is transparent and economic like the forest itself. Steel is used to the maximum potential and you can feel a degree of deflection that has been allowed for in the design. All is simple: four columns, four beams and four tension rods painted in silver colour referencing back to the bark of the surrounding gumtrees.
The ’garden’ of this typical Australian country estate is characteristically not formal and not planted. The Crux is to provide the relationship with nature by enhancing a composition created by the forces of nature and to draw attention to it. The role of the designer is to provide the point from which this nature can be appreciated and interacted with. Jetty/Gazebo is such a point taking its strength from its surrounds.
Edward Szewczyk is an Australian Architect born in Poland. He obtained a Masters Degree in Architecture at the Silesian Institute of Technology and continued his education by touring numerous school of architecture including AA in London, Delft University in Holland, Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium. After short period of work in Poland and Switzerland he migrated to Australia, where eventually he established Edward Szewczyk and Associates Architects in Sydney in1993.
Edward's practice is focused on small scale, high quality designs often centred around specifics of urban living in Sydney. His projects involving revitalisation of old historic buildings are always uncompromisingly contemporary with superimposition of new elements over the old to form new, harmonious composition. Driven by fascination with his new country he is developing a language of interpretation of Australian landscape in numerous projects located in countryside. His projects respond strongly to context taking it as an inspiration for composition of new forms. These are studied to provide timeless qualities of architecture where solution is a fusion of function, structure and visual expression. New compositions are often decisive, but always with a large dose of serenity, where the buildings are part of the setting. Structure is frequently pushed to the point that it becomes centre of composition and visual expression.