The Pumphouse Point is an elegant exemplar of ecologically conscious adaptive reuse with innovative design by the Cumulus Studio

Architecture Interior
Project Credits:
Project Name: Pumphouse Point
 Location: Lake St Clair Road,Lake St Clair,Tasmania, Australia.
Architects: Cumulus Studio (Peter Walker, Todd Henderson, Liz Walsh, Chris Roberts)
Photographer: Adam Gibson, Stuart Gibson & Sharyn Cairns
Civil: Gandy & Roberts Engineers
Hydraulic: Gandy & Roberts Engineers
Structural: Gandy & Roberts Engineers
Electrical: TBS Engineering
Mechanical: TBS Engineering
Fire Engineering: Castellan Consulting
Acoustic: Vipac
Building Surveyors: Green Building Surveyors
Environmental: Red Sustainably
Builder: Mead Con
Date of completion: November 2014
Area: 1,035m2

Situated within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the project involved the adaptive reuse of the Pumphouse Point into a wilderness retreat. The existing buildings- ‘The Pumphouse’ and ‘The Shorehouse’- are heritage listed, art-deco style buildings, constructed in the 1940s, as a part of the Tasmanian Hydro Electric Scheme. These structures were unused for over twenty years, till works began. 


From the moment of conceptualization, the Pumphouse Point redevelopment was imagined to capture rugged simplicity and unrefined comfort. Eighteen new guest suites, communal lounge areas and a shared dining area are designed within the prevailing off-form concrete building shells. Through its design, the redevelopment aims to base itself on the innate sense of arrival and place of the distinctive location, while indicating the site’s history through the material palette and detailing in construction.

Following the best heritage practices and imbibing the values of the site’s location, the World Heritage Area, the design is an emphasis on environmental stewardship, sustainability and minimal site impact.


The Pumphouse is a three storey building, originally constructed in the 1940s. Used to house pump turbines, it sits on Lake St Clair at the end of a 250m concrete flume, its only connection to the land. Situated at the start of the flume on the edge of the lake, the Shorehouse was built at the same time. It housed offices and a maintenance workshop for the turbines.



Of the eighteen new guest suites designed, twelve are located in the Pumphouse and the remaining six are in the Shorehouse, which also accommodates the prep kitchen and the main communal lounge/dining room.

Except for certain minimal work, the exteriors of the buildings have been untouched. This has been done deliberately in order to maintain the high heritage value of the existing buildings and to stress the distinction between the new interiors and the rugged exterior; the distrait condition of which is a testimony to the harsh environment in which they are situated.




Flanked by mountains and water, the approach to the Pumphouse building boasts an enhanced anticipation and a sense of arrival, thanks to its surroundings. A passage through the solid metal doors leads the guests into the entry foyer, which has been crafted as an intermediate zone, gentle connector between the rugged wilderness outside and the homely comfort of the suites.




The twelve studio-sized suites are planned along the lengths of the two outer wings, with the central core on each level being devoted to communal lounge areas. The wings open at both ends so that a continuous sight line is formed; beginning at the flume, passing through the entire building.

Keeping in sync with the idea of raw simplicity and uncomplicated comfort, a simple neutral palette has been used throughout. The spaces augment the characteristic of transition as untreated, roughsawn hardwood and exposed servicing pipework of the entry and common spaces subtly give way to a more refined Tasmanian timber veneer panelling and exposed bent copper plumbing in the suites. These nuances also pay homage to the history of the place- the timber formwork of the off-form concrete and water that used to once pump through the core of the building.




The site of the project is in a remote location which needed a great amount of site servicing and infrastructure. Utilising simple construction techniques, the project has been achieved on an extremely tight budget. Various techniques for standardisation and prefabrication were realized through joinery and fittings.




As the original buildings were designed for very different purposes, one of the challenges was to manipulate the internal spaces to strike a balance between private and common spaces. The high acoustic performance required by the suites demanded substantial co-ordination to ensure efficient structural solutions.  





Although situated inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the project is not intended to blatantly portray environmental credentials, or be tagged as an ‘eco-lodge’. On the contrary, the architecture behaves as an understated background for the surrounding nature, the retreat being a sanctuary to experience the wilderness around for many who would otherwise not take such an opportunity.



The studio’s aimed to minimise the project’s environmental impact within the World Heritage Area. This was achieved with a well-planned construction process wherein the builders were working within an environmental management plan. This entailed careful dealing with potential contamination issues and limited access to only the areas that had been previously intruded upon.

The building envelopes were only minimally altered, apart from increasing the thermal functioning of the building through insulation and use of high performance glazing.

With the exception of localised space heating during winter, the buildings have been designed to rely predominantly on natural ventilation by utilising the relatively consistent temperature of the lake and the thermal mass of the existing structures. Rather than following the traditional approach of a hotel, where all the spaces are air conditioned on a uniform level, the areas here were divided into one of three categories: non-conditioned (entry foyers), semi-conditioned (lounges and public areas) and conditioned (guest suite) spaces. This allowed for different heating techniques to be applied (for eg. wood fires in the public areas and panel heaters in the suites) which in turn granted transition zones between the outdoor spaces and the suites.  






With Pumphouse Point, Cumulus Studio has successfully created an environmentally sustainable exemplar that is designed to be a part of its habitat, rather than overpowering it with its structural presence. With the refurbishment causing minimal impact on the surrounding nature, the architects have effectively maintained the unique essence of the Tasmanian World Heritage Area.

The Cumulus Studio is a Tasmanian Architecture studio started by Todd Henderson, Peter Walker and Kylee Scott. The studio is a product of their aspiration to explore ideas collaboratively and a conviction that great ideas stem from sharing and workshopping with others. Cumulus, Latin for ‘heap’ or ‘pile’, deem that by working together, a significant mass of ideas can be accumulated quickly, forming idea clouds, which can take on any size or form and can be modified to suit different conditions.

Cumulus refrains from having a stylistic approach or a predetermined way of working. Instead, they prefer to treat each client and site individually, with a unique architectural design being created in the process.


32Location Plan
28Ground Floor Plan Lake House27First Floor Plan Lake House
Ground Floor Plan Pump House29First Floor Plan Pump House
31Second Floor Plan Pump House
33Section Pump House
34Todd Henderson and Peter Walker 
35Cumulus Team 

– Tanvi Naik ,Volume Zero.


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