Finalist 2022

Grampians Peaks Trail (Gariwerd) Stage 2

McGregor Coxall with Noxon Giffen / Parks Victoria / OPS Engineers / Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation

The Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT) offers a world-class hiking experience within Gariwerd's wilderness, traversing the lands of three Traditional Owners.

The Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT) Stage-2 offers a world-class hiking experience over 160km of pristine Gariwerd wilderness, traversing the lands of three Traditional Owners. This diverse trail program accounts for day trips through to 13-day odysseys, tailored to a vast array of users and abilities. The brief for the GPT demanded designs that were deeply connected to the landscape and enhanced the hiking experience as it evolved through diverse terrain. A landscape-led collaboration culminated in a world-class hiking experience that curates the various contexts, stories, histories, and conditions of 11 hiker camp locations.

Design Brief

The brief for GPT demanded designs that deeply connected to landscape and enhance hiking experiences as they evolved through diverse terrain. Fundamental were three key elements: a celebration of Gariwerd with landscape as the hero, recognition of scale and diversity of terrain through site responsive designs, and the adoption of design strategies for construction and maintenance that respond to the trail’s remote nature. Design called upon high-quality accommodation solutions, optimised for walker experiences through a focus on arrival experience, site appreciation, awareness of site-specific conditions, and enabling of social interaction between walkers whilst maintaining a level of privacy and remoteness. Conditions necessitated a specific design response to facilitate remote construction and to minimise ongoing maintenance.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

The Grampians Peaks Trail Stage 2 project called for ten new campsites along the trail (together with a Group Camp for school groups at Stony Creek, adjacent to the GPT). As part of the design process, Parks Victoria collaborated with Traditional Owners over several years to select the campsite locations, and define clear guidelines and boundaries for landform, ecology, spatial typology, and cultural immersion at each site.

Fundamental to Parks Victoria’s design brief were three key elements: the celebration of Gariwerd (Grampians) with landscape as hero, recognition of the scale and diversity of the terrain through a variety of site responsive designs, and design strategies for construction and maintenance in response to the trails’ remote nature.

A key aim of the brief was to amplify the immersive hiker experience with an appropriate level of comfort. The brief called to focus on arrival experience, site appreciation, awareness of site-specific conditions, and enabling social interaction between walkers whilst still maintaining a level of privacy and a sense of remoteness. Immersion drove design. Site analysis and design development processes saw journeys to individual sites, meditating in different weather conditions and at different times of day to gain the greatest appreciation for landscapes.

Observation fuelled imagination for possibility – observing areas of natural congregation, shelter during harsh weather, and places of rest. A culmination of these experiences, combined with extensive environmental mapping, architectural design, engineering and arborist expertise resulted in a series of thoughtfully designed hiking camps, purpose-built for posterity and a wide range of users and intensities.

Design Excellence

Foremost, GPT is a celebration of nature in its rawest form – a boost for ecotourism in Australia’s own backyard at a time when its people and economy need it most. Accommodating to a variety of users, abilities and intensities, the walk will conserve, protect and celebrate the unique beauty of Gariwerd, achieving the highest possible grade of environmental sensitivity through the protection of site-specific conditions such as biotope preservation, overland flow management and microclimate. New minimalistic campsites scattered along the pristine Gariwerd wilderness feature amenities restricted to essentials of tent platforms, communal areas, shelters, and toilets, to amplify the immersive hiker experience with an appropriate level of comfort.

The aim was to provide high-quality designs for accommodation elements, optimised for walker experiences with focus on arrival experience, site appreciation and specificity, and enabling of social interaction between walkers whilst maintaining a level of privacy and a sense of remoteness. A common thread is established across all sites, incorporating responses that curate the various contexts, stories, and conditions of each location.

Conditions necessitated a specific design response to facilitate remote construction and to minimise ongoing maintenance. Designs adopts a unitised structural module allowing prefabrication both for economy and ease of construction in areas with limited helicopter access. Cladding designs respond to site ecology and are adaptable to suit the structural modules, whilst materiality and detailing is robust and durable. The shelter design module facilitates flexible space planning including position of doors and decks to suit site-specific outlooks, ventilation, sun-exposure, and circulation. The robust structures and natural material palette promote durability and functionality in the tough remote environments. Four core types of cladding underpin materiality, drawing on a mix of oxidised mild steel, sandstone, bushfire-charred timber, weathered timber, and branches of organic cladding that seamlessly embed structures within topography.

Design Innovation

Campsites ‘touch the ground lightly’, maintaining Gariwerd’s landscape as the hero. Designs minimise environmental impacts through use of raw materials whilst remoteness promotes onsite water collection and grey water treatment to protect vegetation. A family of architecture responds to unique geological conditions and character, tailored for harmony with site lines, sun exposure, wind, and ecological communities. Four core types of cladding underpin robust site materiality, drawing on a mix of oxidised mild steel and sandstone, bushfire-charred timber, silvered timber form, and branches of organic cladding that seamlessly embed structures within topography. Immersion drove design. Site analysis and design development processes saw journeys to individual sites, meditating in different weather conditions and at different times of day to gain the greatest appreciation for landscapes. Observation fuelled imagination for possibility – observing areas of natural congregation, shelter during harsh weather, and places of rest. A culmination of these experiences, combined with extensive environmental mapping, architectural design, engineering and arborist expertise resulted in a series of thoughtfully designed hiking camps, purpose-built for posterity and a wide range of users and intensities.

The trail’s remoteness necessitates a specific design response for construction that minimises ongoing maintenance. Design adopts a unitised structural module allowing prefabrication both for economy and ease of construction limited to helicopter access. Designed to bring campers together while offering privacy, the Communal Hiker Shelter provides a central breezeway link with an enclosed gathering space and separate food preparation area. Large sliding doors and outdoor decks allow spaces to be protectively enclosed or opened to abundant landscapes beyond. A high-level clerestory ribbon of filtered light connects with tree canopies, whilst a solid base protectively encloses, punctuated by feature windows framing key views of Gariwerd. A selection of cladding solutions provides a variety or architectural designs relating to specific site contexts along the trail.

Design Impact

Spanning 160 kilometres across the pristine Gariwerd wilderness, GPT’s awe-inspiring, mountainous landscape reveal hidden links between ancient elements and evolving cultural histories. Working with Traditional Owners, clear guidelines and boundaries for landform, ecology, spatial typology, and cultural immersion were clearly outlined. As a result, the trail brings visitors closer to the rich Aboriginal culture of the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung peoples who have lived in these ranges for millennia. Heading southbound from Mt Zero in the north, the trail passes over the summit of Gar (Mt Difficult), continuing through Halls Gap with hiking highlights including Redman Bluff, Major Mitchell Plateau and Mt Abrupt (Mud-dadjug) before reaching Dunkeld. A diverse trail programme accounts for day trips through to 13-day odysseys, tailored to a vast array of users including outdoor enthusiasts, families, and more. GPT will bring an important economic and tourism development opportunity for the local community, the region, and Victoria as a key nature-based tourism destination in Australia.

The project aims to increase the total number of walkers from 13,800 in 2015 to over 34,000 walkers by 2025 and is forecasted to generate more than $6 million of economic benefit for the region. A new benchmark for Australian ecotourism, GPT will conserve, protect, and celebrate the Victorian wilderness’ unique beauty while achieving the highest possible grade of environmental sensitivity through the protection of site-specific conditions such as biotope preservation, overland flow management, and microclimate. Off-grid campsites are designed with mindfulness to guidelines and tracks while intuitive circulation allows for more sustainable campsites that minimise public access to dense vegetation. Hiker infrastructure uses raw materials that match the environment, allowing structures to be enveloped by vegetation and gain the patina of the site as they age and weather over time – reducing the need for ongoing maintenance.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Campsites ‘touch the ground lightly’, minimising impact on the environment and maintaining Gariwerd’s iconic, biodiverse landscape as the hero. Accommodating a variety of users, abilities and intensities, the walk will conserve and protect Gariwerd’s beauty, achieving the highest possible grade of environmental sensitivity through the protection of site-specific conditions such as biotope preservation, overland flow management, and microclimate. The off-grid campsites are designed with mindfulness to guidelines and tracks – intuitive circulation allows for more sustainable campsites that minimise public access to dense vegetation.

The designs also minimise their impact on the environment through use of raw materials that match the environment, and allow for the structures to be enveloped by vegetation and gain the patina of the site as they age and weather over time, reducing the need for ongoing maintenance. Additionally, to protect the vegetation, the isolated situations require water collection and grey-water treatment on site. Most importantly, the GPT will bring visitors closer to the rich Aboriginal culture of the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung peoples who have lived in these ranges for thousands of years.

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