Bells Beach: An Alternative Vision
In the last few months community action groups in Torquay, spearheaded by the likes of Maurice Cole, have been battling Victoria's Surf Coast Shire Council. The reason for the confrontation is development in and around the carpark at Bells Beach. Recently the Council has removed car parking spaces to make way for tourist buses in the first step of a planned tourist hub at Bells Beach.
Surfing stakeholders such as Cole believe they've been ignored in the planning process with Council favouring tourist operators. The dispute is well documented in this article by Cameron Houston in The Age.
Amongst these differing visions, and taking into account the inevitability of population growth, is Aaron Neighbour's alternative vision of Bells Beach. Neighbour is a graduate architect from RMIT who investigated future sustainability at Bells Beach for his Masters of Architecture thesis.
I've attached images from Neighbour's thesis (click 'enlarge' to view at full size), while following is a short summary of his thesis.
The difficulty behind the future changes to Bells Beach stem from the diversity of its current user groups. Each of the stakeholders have different values and aspirations for the site. When these conflicting objectives are overlaid they fail to align. This proposal encourages a more balanced and sustainable use of the Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve, while accommodating inevitable increases to the surfer and visitor population.
The masterplan adapts the overflow car park used during the Rip Curl Pro to an all-year (gravel) visitor car park. This would relieve the strain on current parking facilities, providing the opportunity to decrease the asphalt footprint of the existing car park and re-vegetate, as it no longer needs to cater for tourist traffic.
A pedestrian tunnel under the existing road has been introduced, so tourists could safely walk from the bus parking to a visitors centre located to the north of the Winkipop hill, without interrupting traffic flow. The connecting 400m walk from the new visitor's car park to Bells Beach could provide necessary historical and educational content so that visitors can start to appreciate the sites significance.
The form of the visitor centre and Bells facilities relates to how the local winds shift direction. When the surf is good, the tourists use the 'Offshore' spaces which are separated from the surfer's car park, relieving congestion between user groups. The 'Onshore' space mimics the behaviours of how people react to this wind direction. The building provides moments of refuge where visitors can take shelter during strong southerly winds.
The proposal has been considered in both event and non-event mode. In event mode, the design eliminates the need for transportable containers and heavy machinery. Instead, it provides an onsite solution where a system of fibreglass panels, manufactured by local surfboard shapers from resin waste, can be used to infill permanent framing elements around the site. During non-event times, these spaces frame the natural amphitheatre that is Bells.