Bingara Country Club


Location: Bingara Gorge, Wilton, NSW

Architect: Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture

Photography: Simon Wood Photography

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A country club where the city meets the bush showcases a quintessentially Australian response to recreation among nature.

Tucked behind the Upper Nepean nature reserve north of Sydney, at the gateway to the Southern Highlands, Lendlease’s Bingara Gorge development embodies the area’s combination of small town prosperity and semi-rural tranquillity. The master-planned community is set to host 3,500 people across 1,165 homes and includes a village centre, a primary school, a Country Club along with extensive recreation spaces, and a Graham Marsh designed championship golf course set among 120 hectares of bushland.

The Country Club is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the development, and promises to be a major draw card for potential residents. Designed in collaboration by development architects SJB and Jane Irwin Landscape Architects, it aims to create a flexible space to attract and entertain community members and families in a relaxed, amenity-rich environment.

In their initial design response to the brief for the Country Club, both Adam Haddow – SJB Director – and Jane Irwin cite the influence of the homesteads that occupy Australia’s rural stretches. Haddow recalls, “The predominant memory of these houses was more of a small town than a house. They were a collection of buildings… You were constantly outside, connecting between buildings externally. They were wonderful places to discover and your experience of them always required you to walk across courtyards, driveways, lawns and yards…The collection of buildings is both grand and intimate.”

Focusing on the site in question, Irwin observes that “Being where it is, and the presence of an old farm house not far from there, we wanted to do something with a slightly different character than the housing subdivision that was there, which is fairly formal. We wanted to push it to be something that was much more Australian, country, a little bit more raw than the housing itself, because it’s sitting on the edge of the agrarian landscape.”

Armed with this shared inspiration, the designers elaborated a design for interior and external spaces that celebrates this informal, ‘country’ mood – what Irwin affectionately refers to as ‘not glamorous’. Naturally, the materiality of these spaces was paramount.

For the SJB team, this was an opportunity to create an environment from natural materials that would not only reference the site’s colours and textures but also age gracefully; as Project Designer Juan Muñoz-Tamayo puts it, the aim was to “design and detail appropriately so that with some deterioration materials not only look better but work as well.” Thus, the interior architecture features a palette of brick, timber, zinc and rammed earth.

Muñoz-Tamayo was particularly enthusiastic about bricks representing a convergence of aesthetics and utility, and this is reflected in the wealth of brickwork to be found both internally and externally at the Country Club. “From my point of view the beauty of this material is that whilst achieving this great appearance it also provides a great number of other properties,” he says.

For Irwin, the material choice for outdoor spaces was unequivocal. “We really like working with brick”, she states, “especially for an area like that, where people are engaging in the space intimately. The small scale is really appropriate. It’s the size. It’s obviously designed to be held in the hand, and handplaced.”

“The other thing about brick that we like is that actually gives a handmade, crafted quality,” Irwin continues. “That keeps things human, and interesting, and with a sense of craft, as well. Brick’s also a very plastic material in that it goes around corners quite well. It’s really easy to make a lot of different patterns.”

A variety of Bowral brick products were used throughout the project including Bowral Blue, Gertrudis Brown and Murray Grey, with colours hinging around warm, earthy hues, and composition ranging from orthogonal to organic. Irwin reflects, “They go with the colours of the earth out there, which is a darker, reddy colour, and easy to clean. They have that quality of age, and they’re a little bit more rustic as well. The playground itself has sandstone boulders, and then the recycled bricks coming up to that. We were able to do some really lovely circular patterns. It all fits in a really nice, soft way.”

Irwin is also an enthusiastic advocate of laying bricks vertically, (“You get a smaller scale, and that’s really good. You can build with it as well. It doesn’t look like paving, it looks like flooring.”) and this technique is evident across the Country Club and grounds, where Bowral’s Hamlet Ash & Sepia Pavers can be observed interrupting and re-calibrating the rhythm of spaces.

In the areas of the buildings, where events such as wedding receptions and parties are hosted, new bricks were used in a more formal manner, but still sustain the project’s site sensitivity and bleed into surrounding areas without too sudden-a change. This not only supports the project’s coherence and encourages exploration, but speaks to the health of the collaboration between interior and landscape designers. “When you’re developing a design, you don’t ever have a clean delineation,’ says Irwin, “You can’t have a cut-off point. That’s where our use of brick came from as well; some of the brick that we chose for the outside, they took to the inside. Those bricks really work inside as well.”

Irwin almost makes it sound like a happy accident – that the designers stumbled upon these solutions. Yet like in most design, the seeming simplicity of the forms and textures of the Bingara Gorge Country Club belies the thought and care with which it was created. Likewise, the reassuring warmth and resistance of bricks underfoot may go unnoticed, yet their contribution to the look, feel (and even smell – think after rain on a hot day) of the place is immeasurable.

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