AR Awards for Emerging Architecture

Honourable mention


Community centre

Djugerari, Australia

December 2006
Australia's relationship with its indigenous peoples is still deeply troubled. When colonisation of the continent began in the late eighteenth century, there were around 350 individual Aboriginal nations, each with its own language and culture. Today, under 200 languages are still spoken, yet all but 20 are regarded as under threat. Those peoples who have survived face immense social problems and the difficulty of reconciling their ancestral culture with a hostile modern world.
The Walmajarri people were originally desert dwellers, roaming across the vastness of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia. In the 1950s they finally abandoned their nomadic way of life to work on cattle stations in the Fitzroy River valley. Today, the focus of the community is the tiny hamlet of Djugerari (population 80), lying between the sandhills of the desert and the ancient sandstone mesas that mark the edge of the river valley. Within this remote settlement conditions are harsh, with dust storms in winter and flooding in summer. Summer temperatures can be particularly extreme, rising to 48 deg C.
Iredale Pedersen Hook were asked to design a community centre for Djugerari and their response to such challenging conditions is both pragmatic and poetic. Intended as a meeting place, teaching facility, painting workshop and tourist venue, the building is distilled to an easily transportable kit of parts that sits lightly and simply on the ground. A cluster of insulated pavilions are shaded and sheltered by a parasol roof. Their composition was determined by framed views of the surrounding mesas and sacred sites, including a massacre site. Each has a part to play in Walmajarri cultural heritage, so the building becomes a means of revealing and interpreting this precious history.
So much for the poetry. In pragmatic terms, the architecture is simple, robust, and necessarily low maintenance. The parasol roof provides a shaded area for outdoor activities as well as reducing overall heat gain. Pavilions are lightweight steel-frame construction with doors and windows sealed against dust penetration. Air conditioning systems, which enable the building to be used all year round, are modified to consume minimal power (provided by local diesel generators). The jury found much to commend in the project's strong sense of social and environmental responsibility and its sympathetic response to both people and place. C. S.

Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects, Perth
Shannon McGrath
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