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.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Brad Wor­rall pho­tos Ali­son Mcpher­son, Alpine Shire Coun­cil

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.

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