Ecotourism is a burgeoning sector of the tourism industry offering a relatively guilt-free environment in which to satisfy the desire for travel and adventure. The discourse is firmly entrenched within the dominant conception of sustainability where nature is seen as a privileged ‘other’, untouched by humans. This ideology is also prevalent in the design of ecotourism facilities, which are generally predicated on a model of minimal intervention. This low-impact approach is not problematic in itself, but it misses the opportunity to engage in a more productive and ‘regenerative’ relationship with place. Conversely, Philip Cox Richardson Taylor's design for the resort town of Yulara in central Australia sought a more constructive relationship with place and questioned the conventional notion of ‘resort’. Although this resort, constructed in 1984, predates the current ecotourism industry and certification programs, it remains an early exemplar of innovations in this area and offers the benefits of hindsight. Through an exploration of the ideals and realities of the design and subsequent occupation of Yulara, this paper questions the potential challenges and opportunities of the design of ecotourism facilities to engage in a more ‘regenerative’ agenda. In particular, it identifies the social context and consideration of spatial practice as a key area of opportunity for the built environment to contribute to the ecotourism goal of interpretation and education through a more reflexive form of environmental awareness.
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