Once, Bundaberg’s claim to fame was sugar (and sugar by-products), but times have changed. We now have a reputation built on high-quality agricultural produce and award- winning food and beverages, with tourism taking in the unique natural environment the Region has to offer.

A major part of the appeal for visitors and a point of pride for locals is the Mon Repos Conservation Park. Each year endangered loggerhead turtles return to nest, making it a place of immense ecological importance.

Unfortunately, the site facilities had struggled to keep up with the demands placed on them. For a visitor, the primary experience is witnessing turtles nesting and baby turtles hatching. Outside the turtle season, opportunities to engage with the park were more limited.

The new Turtle Centre is an impressive, modern insertion into the conservation park. Designed by award-winning Brisbane architects KIRK, local builders Murchie Constructions completed the works.

The main structure nestles into the landscape as a strong but subtle architectural statement. It reveals new aspects as you move around the site, highlighting the surroundings rather than imposing upon them.

When I first visited the new building, I was immediately struck by the high-quality materials utilised. Pleats of copper cladding conceal delicate openings that ventilate the internal spaces. Underneath this metallic skirt massive glu-lam timber frames evoke permanence while respecting context. With time the materials will patina; the copper turning green and the timber complementing the carefully retained forest and new landscaping.

As you enter, the external solidity of the facades belies a lightness and openness once inside. This eliminates light spill wherever possible to minimise impacts upon the turtle population. Timber features extensively, the combinations of grain and tone offering a warm and complex character. The execution of the detailing is a credit to the builders, as well as the 15 local subcontractors and 86 local suppliers involved.

Winning the contract for the Turtle Centre was monumental according to Andrew Murchie. “There was a great deal of collaboration between trades to co-ordinate services and schedule works to deliver the project on time. We are very proud of the high level of workmanship by all involved on the project and pleased to be able to showcase the quality of our work.” He adds that it was also an invaluable learning experience for the 22 apprentices who worked on the project, exposing them to materials and techniques not commonly used in the industry.

The new Mon Repos Turtle Centre is a fitting showcase for the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting site in the southern hemisphere. It enables year-round visitation, and makes a statement as modern, sustainable architecture. It is a building that will endure and form a part of our local identity for decades to come.

Architect Tomas O’Malley designs buildings that reflect Central Queensland’s climate and lifestyle.