Rottnest Island General Store

Originally an Aboriginal prison settlement to the summer playground destination for Perth, Rottnest Island's original built fabric is of a high cultural and heritage significance. As a prison settlement, buildings and infrastructure were in the main, constructed by aboriginal prison labour with a high proportion of the building fabric remaining in tact. The General Store occupies what was once the hay store followed by prison cells (c1957) for the island. The building has suffered under years of ad hoc additions and alteration. It was paramount that the works combine the old with the new in a sympathetic manner so as to utilise the inherit value of the built fabric without sacrificing the heritage significance and to facilitate the interpretation of the building in its own right as well as part of the overall island context. The design intent was to combine the necessary conservation works with a modern supermarket facility sympathetic to the heritage significance of the place. It is our hope that visitors experience a degree of surprise when strolling into the building for the first time; although to fully appreciate the transformation, one should have experienced the ad hoc, worn down, dark, warren spaces that were once the General Store.

The transformation process resulted in exhilaration in creating the juxtaposition of old and new subjected to a contemporary treatment. The revealing of the traditional combined with a contemporary palette of materials and form language provides a clear indication of historical reference with the scheme given coherence by the choice of singular materials and the use of strong forms and colour. The resulting performance space, a stage created by the interface of the old and the new is an internal street bathed in a play of sunlight and shadow from skylights that also provide glimpses of surrounding trees and the hazy blue summer sky. The key to the performance is the variety and movement of the visitors to the island, playing both the actors and the audience.

Completed 2000