Best in Category - Architectural Design 2015

MacKenzie Falls Gorge Trail

hansen partnership / Parks Victoria

A unique opportunity to explore and implement a new trail alignment re-connecting MacKenzie Falls to the historical Zumsteins Picnic Ground

The destruction of a footbridge during flooding in the Grampians National Park, Victoria, delivered a unique opportunity to explore and implement a new trail alignment re-connecting MacKenzie Falls to the historical Zumsteins Picnic Ground.

hansen partnership prepared a concept plan for the MacKenzie Falls Precinct in order to guide the preparation of construction documentation for implementation works under Parks Victoria’s flood recovery program. The trail alignment was designed to emphasise natural features and identifies a more inspired route for visitors. A newly aligned footbridge, expanded mesh steps and a walkway contribute to the trail’s presence and identity within the region.

Photography by Andrew Lloyd

Design Excellence

Challenging site conditions called for an alternative methodology and documentation process to standard design and construction projects. The remoteness and irregularity of the site informed the design process and final output. This desire to seek a more compelling alternative was thoroughly explored, with the major considerations being: safety, accessibility, experience and a proximity to nature. It was expected there would be difficulties in communicating the design intent with the construction team given the environs. We opted to use typical details that responded to the irregular terrain with the major considerations being ease of construction and a focus on nature.

Design Impact

The new trail provides a more intimate route, drawing users to locations previously undiscovered, including exposure to a tall rock escarpment, experiencing alternate sides of the river and new views to the lower falls. Users can also now enjoy proximity to the MacKenzie River, rather than being directed up the ridge line. Another major area of impact consideration was climate change resilience. Careful consideration was given to material choice, location and form to ensure their presence in the landscape would endure in a fire and flood prone bushland environment. The design has withstood serious bushfire to date with little damage.

Design Transformation

The new trail significantly enhances the MacKenzie Falls precinct’s identify and brand within the Grampians region. The sensitive design approach resulted in the delivery of a sound framework for the ongoing management of the area, balancing increased visitor traffic with conservation and preservation requirements, in line with the requirements of the client, Parks Victoria. The quality of the design has since seen the project honoured two Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) Victoria Awards and a Good Design Award, thereby further increasing the profile of the trail to attract a new segment of visitors.

Design Innovation

Innovation was integral to the design process given the challenges regarding location, accessibility and data. The site is 3.5 hours’ drive from Melbourne and a further half hour on foot across steep terrain. Quality aerial photography and survey information was unavailable, so gathering information on site was crucial. Alternate techniques such as on-site visual mapping and photo assessment were used to deliver a site-specific report, including new trail alignment options and a ‘kit of parts’ document detailing typical construction details. Every rock face, landscape element and natural feature was documented through sketch design & on-site mapping using pen and paper.