How Carver created tropical magic
LOOKING beyond the immediate design brief to the full lifecycle of a five star resort like the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas has opened up further opportunities for both Scott Carver and for the communities of the Far North that rely on the hospitality and tourism sector.
Scott Carver was contracted as the landscape architects for new owner Fullshare Group’s refurbishment of the 30-year old Sheraton Mirage Resort.
Scott Carver Director Andrew Turnbull, Project Director for design and delivery, describes the task as “not just cosmetic surgery, this was more like a triple bypass operation.”
The resort had had very little investment over the previous three decades, Turnbull says, and as a result the quality of the buildings and the landscape both required a substantial uplift.
The original design had focused on creating a tropical paradise, with 80 per cent of the landscaped area planted out with trees and understorey and very little in the way of open grassed areas.
A lack of succession plantings and management had meant the planted areas had become quite overgrown.
The Scott Carver strategy was to convert 70 per cent of the planted area to turf while retaining the trees.
This created a blank canvas for landscape enhancements. Much of the design decisionmaking was driven by considering ongoing maintenance and new technologies in water management. Scott Carver put in place a recycled water strategy to replace the potable mains water that had been used for grounds irrigation, saving the resort many thousands of dollars annually in water costs.
Other hard landscape elements delivered in the refreshed outdoor spaces include upgrades to the waterways and lagoon pools, the addition of swim-up balconies to lagoon-edge suites, and the installation of more than 25 cabanas adjacent to the lagoons.
“This has given it a more contemporary resort feel,” Turnbull says.
He says research has shown that guests at the resort spend 70 per cent of their time outside.
The existing grounds also included a number of back of house landscapes that were not being put to best use, so the Scott Carver team integrated them into the overall design so they became functional areas.
The resort caters to both leisure and business tourism, a key aspect of the landscape refurbishment is to provide additional outdoor spaces for large group use including conferences and weddings incorporating audio technology and special effects lighting.
“This creates an indooroutdoor opportunity,” Turnbull says.
A key consideration in the design and future management of the landscape was the integration of management across the beachfront, golf course, Mirage Country Club and the Resort. The combined Landscape Management Plan improves energy, water and resource efficiency.
Turnbull says Fullshare now wants to transfer the model to its other assets, which Scott Carver has also been contracted to work on. These include Mirage Whisper Bay and the Laguna Whitsunday development.
One of the project’s major positives has been the benefits for the local Port Douglas community.
Turnbull says the question of how to build the community’s capacity and local economy was key to all thinking on the project.
For the duration of the project, Turnbull himself spent one week on, one week off based at Port Douglas.
This helped him build strong links with local trades and suppliers, who were used wherever possible. It was a pleasure collaborating with the locals, because everyone had a vested interest in the outcome.
The fine grain detail of the project benefitted too.
For example, Turnbull says he was able to sit down with the local metalwork experts and develop better solutions for specific items.
The focus on the local economy resulted in creating jobs, and the uplift of the resort has ensured that the employment and income the resort generates for the local community is assured.