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Architecture student devises Tweed River floating tourist attraction

A tourist attraction that rises and falls with tides and floods is proposed for the Tweed River to celebrate the region’s rich heritage of timber river boats.

Ten architecture students were challenged to design a Tweed River Wooden Boat Centre as part of their Masters degrees at Bond University.

The push is now on to realise the centre which would display classic boats as well as be a working boatyard for the Tweed’s small but skilled community of shipwrights.

It is hoped the centre could be built on the western side of the river near Murwillumbah and within sight of the acclaimed Tweed Regional Gallery on the opposite bank.

One of the designs is by Singaporean Jichang Pan and would adapt to the rise and fall of the flood-prone river. Two rectangular wings covered with a lattice of timber jut out into the water and the lower levels rest on a floating pontoon.

Mr Pan said his design was inspired by the craftsmanship of local boatbuilders.

“I tried to create a space which brings all the processes of boat making together and at the same time it could also become an exhibition space or a ceremony space where a boat can be launched right away after it has been made,” he said.

“Rather than putting it away from the river, the boat centre is located right at the edge of a peninsula.

“And with the floating platform which response to the flooding issue on site, the interior experience might change due to its environment, just like how a boat behaves on the river.”

Northern NSW shipwright of 25 years Marcus Cranney said timber river boats were once the lifeblood of the region, transporting timber, cane and people along the Tweed River between Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads.

“What the students have done is inspiring and would be a complete bonus in any small regional area,” Mr Cranney said.

“The site they’ve identified would be fantastic because you have the art gallery opposite and it brings a lot of tourists into the area.

“The wooden boat centre would be brilliant for the town, for employment and for training students in a trade and keeping the skills alive.”

The traditional boats are celebrated each year at the Tweed River Classic Boat Regatta.

Mentors for the project included one of Australia’s best-known architects Richard Leplastrier and Professor Adrian Carter of the Abedian School of Architecture.

Prof Carter said all the students responded with great architectural sensitivity to the brief prepared by local architect Justin Twohill.

“Jichang Pan’s highly original design proposal, if realised, would draw not only those that appreciate beautiful timber boats and good architecture, but also many others,” he said.

“Together with the Tweed Regional gallery, it would put Murwillumbah ever more firmly on the tourist map.”

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