Jeremy Bonwick

(re)Collecting Rural: Memory, Heritage and a Rural Identity Under Threat

The sun dips,
reflecting off the relentlessly flowing water.
I can still hear the street,
dull now,
overlaid with a trickling and a rustling.
River red gums,
their canopy now at eye height,
coming to meet with a hand flour mill,
chipped and well used.
Next to it a railway sleeper,
timber greying and bolts brown with rust.
The football scoreboard peeks through between the trees;
Warburton 5 goals 4, 34.
Bricks, layered with stories of labour.
The water runs on.

In a climate of expansion and homogenisation of culture and the built environment, the continuing urban bleed of Melbourne into its surrounding rural towns threatens to supersede and suppress a local identity.

This thesis examines the role of architecture and the museum typology in maintaining the local identity of Warburton — a peri-urban town on the outskirts of Melbourne — through interactions with heritage, relic and artefact. A disused food factory is taken as the existing architectural condition, imprinted with traces of past events, practices and paradigms, and transformed into a factory of identity.

Through an experiential sequencing of spaces, exhibits and contextualising views, the scheme seeks to make sense of and re-collect past traces of industry, settlement, water and power — edifices of a rural identity considered at the scale of the wider ecology, the town, the plot and the brick.

A symbiotic connection on the armature of the city — the river and road. Per-urban morphology and expanding rings of an urban growth boundary threaten the idiosyncrasy of a rural township such as Warburton.
A connection between river and street — a TRANSEPT bridge as museological intervention into a site with layered history of settlement and industry.
THE SOUTHERN DATUM The existing Sanatarium Health Foods Factory on the Warburton highway, a phenomenological container, reduced to an industrial shroud with cloistered rooms for social and community engagement. 
Existing architectural condition; a cream brick, Willem Dudok inspired dutch modernist factory, built in 1936, designed by Edward F. Billson, site for the production of Weet-Bix until the 1990s, abandoned since...
Interactions with heritage as a radical act. The scarring of exposed surfaces is accelerated by the operation of removing the roof, leaving an 'industrial shroud' around an enclosed forecourt.
Community function spaces with provision for performance, meeting and exhibiting, another layer of story on the exposed skin of the factory walls, baring the marks of intervention, slab removal, paint chipping and changes in previous wall finishes.
The polycarbonate portal, an extended entry sequence to the museum. Its surface blurs and intrigues, creating a gradient from sky to garden to shadowy outlines of objects held in the collection sitting of shelves wrapping behind the cladding.
THE TRANSEPT BRIDGE A museum journey spanning the infrastructural manifestation of the transept, collecting contextualising views to the landscape and housing within black render and cork lined enfilade rooms objects of local significance. Re-collecting traces of industry, settlement and water. 
Idiosyncratic spaces are created as the rooms sitting in sequence on the bridge form respond to the museum ecology — the relationship between the human, the work and the context — pushing out to capture an aspect or punching the roof to create a spotlight on a display.
THE SOUTHERN DATUM On the banks of the river, a more granular building which responds to undulation and flow, housing a micro-hydro power generator and solar array with community pavilions 
Community engagement follows in the tradition of the rural mechanics institute hall, a place for "working up the raw intelligence of the town" (Richard Cobden).