The Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 burned over 4,500 km² (450,000 hectares, 1.1 million acres), resulted in the lost of 173 people’s lives and injured over 400 people. The damage to the areas surrounding Melbourne was extensive and disastrous and included the loss of the Narbethong Community Hall, the only public space for residents of the area. Even before, the timber building lacked in adequate facilities for the community and was defenseless bushfires. BVN Architecture, with the help of ARUP, donated their services to design a new hall with improved facilities, one that would have a more direct connection with the surrounding landscape and most importantly, would meet new fireproof building codes. According to Ninotschka Titchkosky, Principal of BVN, “As Narbethong’s only public venue, the hall is the heart of the community. It is a space where local people can come together for meetings, recreation, celebrations and commiserations. In a small country community, a building like this holds great importance.”
The structure was built to meet Bushfire attack levels BAL 29, be low maintenance, and survive on its own in case of fire so the community could focus on their homes and businesses. A fireproof bronze mesh encases the building and eliminates the chance of embers passing through and catching the building on fire. The inner structure is formed from floor to ceiling double-paned glass supported by fire-retardant Blackbutt timber mullions. Roof penetrations were limited to minimize the chance of embers falling into the building. Tilt up screens on the north and south raise up to increase light penetration inside the building and can be shut when the building is not in use. Inside, curvy, moveable timber walls separate the main room from the bathrooms, kitchen and flexible meeting rooms.
Images ©BVN Architecture