During the last 6 months, the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning teamed up with the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne to build a childhood learning center for an indigenous community in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Using four recycled shipping containers, the student team built the center in 10 days time using prefabricated elements, a large shade roof and native landscaping. The University of Melbourne partnered to build the project with the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), and organization that works to protect indigenous people's heritage, culture and languages. The new center aims to help prepare children with a solid foundation for their education.
The student project was completed through a design/build course at the university as part of the Bower Studio, a program that works with indigenous communities to build the infrastructure. Over their fall semester, the students researched and interviewed the community to discuss their needs and wants. The small community of Wakuthuni, who are members of the GAC, asked to have the early childhood center because they wanted their young children (infants to age 5) to have the right start to their education.
Results of their research led the student team to design an open-air center using four shipping containers. Three of the four containers were shipped directly from Perth to the site, while the fourth container came from Melbourne packed with tools, the prefabricated window units and the over-arching roof. Students arrived in Wakuthuni on June 20th and spent the next 10 days hard at work placing the containers, building the deck and roof, and planting the landscape with native flora.
The architecture students worked closely with the education students to design a space to accommodate specific learning areas and to provide exactly what the community wanted. The project was more than just about design and construction, but also about listening and working with a client to produce a meaningful project. Now that the center is completed, the Department of Education is working with the community to develop a culturally appropriate childhood education program. The architecture department has plans to continue working with the GAC on sustainable housing and other humanitarian projects for the area.
Images ©Jim Stewart