As you descend into Bundanon Valley, a breath-catching sight opens before you. Rolling hills flatten out to meet the fast-flowing Shoalhaven river and mist rises like cotton wool crowning the surrounding mountains. It takes little effort to imagine why Australian painter Arthur Boyd abandoned England to establish a base in this landscape. A beauty which he hoped to share with the Australian people when he gifted it to the Federal Government in 1993 and established, a year later, its now-famous artist-in-residence program.
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As such, art is as entrenched in the soil as the twin Bunya Pines. To echo this, Bundanon Art Museum was established, opening in early 2022 as just one of a handful of structures nestled within the estate. The space is intended to exhibit the work of the artists-in-residence, honour Arthur Boyd's creative catalogue and platform the practice of emerging artists. An intent realised in its first exhibition From Impulse to Action, where 12 artists were commissioned to respond to Boyd's ink drawings in a entirely original body of work.
Both the Bundanon Art Museum and The Bridge — a cluster of accomodation — were designed by architect Kerstin Thompson. Thompson's vision for the two buildings is multi-layered and inextricably linked to the surrounding environment and its Indigenous custodians. After all, the name Bundanon is inherently referential to the natural landscape, being the Dharawal word for "deep valley".
Considering how prone the landscape is to abrupt and violent changes, like bushfires and flooding, the Art Museum was crafted to be fire resistant and is subterranean so as to protect precious artworks. Meanwhile The Bridge is suspended in the air to support the natural flow of water rather than disrupt its path.
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Speaking to Arthur Boyd's penchant for painting en plein air, The Bridge becomes another space to engage with the environment. Locally-sourced blackbutt panelling lines each of the 34 rooms with, besides a single fan, manually operated systems to adjust to the elements. The deep blue colour palette is derived from Boyd's own, and in line with Bundanon's net zero ambitions, The Bridge is powered by solar panels and includes black water treatment.
Adding another layer to Bundanon, the site is also a wildlife sanctuary — a fact that has been taken into account in its design. During the day Kangaroos bounce around the property, while at night wombats hobble out to feed.
To round out the Bundanon experience, South Coast chef, Douglas Innes-Will has moved on from QAGOMA in Brisbane to helm the grill at Bundanon's Ramox Cafe where locally-sourced and native produce furnishes the menu.