Monday, 12 May 2014

The Architecture of the Clubhouse

Demaine Partnership has an unequalled record in Australia in the design of clubhouses.  This work has principally focussed on golf clubs, and concentrated in Victoria, with new facilities for some of Australia's finest clubs, including the Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Sorrento, Woodlands, and now more recently, Peninsula Kingswood Golf Club.

Creating an outstanding golf club facility is part science, part art, part sociological study.  While it is acknowledged that the origins of golf reside in the UK, the modern game and the flowering of sophisticated clubhouse and course design has its origins in USA.  The so called 'gilded age' of the 1920s in the USA resulted in proliferation of new recreation facilities.  Golf moved from a slightly arcane pass time for an initiated few, to a sport with broad appeal and sophisticated social dimension.

A special feature in the Architectural Forum Magazine of March 1925 devoted 82 pages to exploring the intricacies of the newly emerging discipline of golf clubhouse architecture, then barely 30 years old in America.  The lead article admitted that club member's expectations of the period was for 'fine appointments, luxurious fittings and service akin to that to be found in a metropolitan hotel...' leading to an indictment that golf 'was a game within the reach of the rich alone.'

This the magazine attributed to a rather extravagant attitude of the members of those early clubs.  'If the men who make up the membership of the numerous clubs about the country ran their own businesses as they allow that of their clubs to be run, in a large majority of cases they would shortly be facing bankruptcy proceedings' the magazine observed.

However it also noted a trend to a much more professional and efficient administration of both buildings and courses, and a broadening of the reach of clubs a much wider and less elite audience.

This trend was mirrored in Australia, with many of Victoria's leading clubs having origins in the late nineneenth and early twentieth centuries.  Demaine Partnership was a participant in developing some of those clubs in the post war era, with modern facilities for both Royal Melbourne in the 1960s and later for the Healesville Country Club and Kew Golf Club.  Elements of these facilities remain today, but our redevelopment of the Royal Melbourne facility is emblematic of the shifting expectations of contemporary golf club members for the quality and character of their 'homes'.

Royal Melbourne Golf Club

When we built the Royal Melbourne Golf Club clubhouse in the 1960s it was hailed as an appropriate and modern response that placed the course itself front and centre, with the building being a quite recessive and low key element within this setting.  However by the late 1990s the austere and utilitarian character of 1960s modernism was no longer so appealing.  Older clubs, built in the 1920s, had stood the test of time much better, providing settings that had a sense of tradition and a more elegant relationship with their attractive course settings.  The club set a brief: to create a new facility that would deliver a range of well proportioned and flexible spaces that created a strong sense of arrival and echoed the pre-eminent status of the club itself.

Our design response embodied an understanding of the clubhouse-course relationship as akin to that between a grand formal landscape and a traditional country house: a dialogue where the building framed and anchored the setting, enhancing and enriching it not by trying to disappear, but by entering into a meaningful dialogue.

But a golf clubhouse is much more than just an ornament to an extraordinary landscape, it is a starting point for the event of the game itself, and a finishing point for gathering and socialization.  There is a sequence of activities from the point of arrival, to departure from the course some hours later, that a well designed building can orchestrate and enhance.

In our next posting, we'll talk the sorts of design features needed to enhance that golfing experience, in the context not only of Royal Melbourne Golf Club, but the Demaine Partnership designs that followed it.

1 comment:

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