UNIQUE VILLAGE IN THE SKY
Dinner Plain is not only Australia’s highest freehold village, it’s also a most unique architectural achievement which is proudly turning 30 this year.
Dinner Plain is not only Australia’s highest freehold village, it’s also a most unique architectural achievement proudly turning 30 this year.
ON June 8, 1986 the Dinner Plain Hotel opened its doors and the highest freehold village in Australia was born.
Today it’s a 5000-bed village with multiple year-round businesses, ski fields and even a boutique brewer.
Dinner Plain - arguably Australia’s most unique village - was renowned architect Peter Mcintyre’s attempt to create an Australian alpine architectural identity, inspired by the cattlemen’s huts that sit above the snowline.
With each structure individually designed, Mr Mcintyre achieved something new in Australian architecture – a village with a sense of unity, but without repetitiveness.
“No one else has actually taken a greenfield site and built a whole 5000-bed village in Australia since the Gold Rush,” he said.
“It was a pretty unique project, so in my career it’s one of the most unique things I’ve done.”
In 1987, Mr Mcintyre won Australia’s top architecture award – the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Sir Zelman Cowen Medal – for the design of Dinner Plain Alpine Village.
He was awarded the RAIA Gold Medal for his life’s work three years later in 1990.
The land on which Dinner Plain was built was used by squatters from the 1850s before the eventual selection purchase by Omeo cattleman Tom Mcnamara in 1915.
It was the surge in the popularity of skiing at Mt Hotham that led to the village’s development.
Now an entire village of multi-pitched roofs supported by buildings of stone, wood and corrugated iron – and painted the colours of snow gums – blending harmoniously with the rugged beauty of the surrounding Alpine National Park.
Mr Mcintyre said the use of those materials gives the village a European feel of those 400 or 500 years old.
“It happened then because the materials were limited; they could only get materials that were available to them within a short distance,” he said.
“Everyone did their own building, so there were individual designs, but they all used the same material.”
Dinner Plain resident Malcolm Mcpherson says it’s taken two decades of curiosity to discover the answer to a question that has long perplexed him – how exactly did this little village appear in the middle of a 646,000-hectare national park?
In his pursuit of an answer he not only uncovered the village’s story, but also put pen to paper to record the history of the first 30 years of what he calls “an island in a sea of crown land”.
“It was all a result of the government more than 100 years ago wanting to encourage regional settlement,” he said at the launch of his book, ‘Dinner Plain, history of the Alpine Village’ in Dinner Plain in August this year.
“The pub anchored the commercial and social activity for the first five to 10 years, then further restaurants were developed.”
These days, Dinner Plain has flourished into a popular family escape, mostly when the winter snow is falling, but also increasingly in the cool alpine summers.
There are now about 400 houses, a spa, and even Australia’s highest craft brewery which has become quite an attraction because Dinner Plain’s alpine water – beer’s biggest ingredient – is arguably the purest water in Australia.
“We’ve become more and more of a destination in our own right, more so than a dormitory for Mount Hotham,” Mr Mcpherson said.
“We’re seeing more and more families coming up, and we’re seeing more people coming for a firsttime snow experience.”
Mr Mcpherson’s book – the first to comprehensively document Dinner Plain’s history – can be purchased from a number of businesses in Dinner Plain as well as at the Visitor Information Centre in Bright.
“WE ’ VE BECOME MORE AND MORE OF A DESTINATION IN OUR OWN RIGHT , MORE SO THAN A DORMITORY FOR MOUNT HOTHAM .” - Malcolm Mcpherson
1 2 3 1. HISTORIAN/ Dinner Plain resident Malcolm Mcpherson has published a book on the first 30 years of Dinner Plain village. 2. BEAUTIFUL/ Horse riding is a fabulous way to explore Dinner Plain and surrounds in the late spring into summer. 3. GRAND DESIGNS/ The village is home to some superb architectural designs, such as this award- winning home, Under The Moonlight, by Italian architect Giovanni D’ambrosio.