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Walumba Elders Centre

Walumba Elders Centre

Iredale pedersen hook architects
Warmun, Australia | View Map
Project Year
Social Housing
Peter Bennetts

Walumba Elders Centre

Iredale pedersen hook architects as Architects

On the 13th of March 2011 the Giga people’s home town of Warmun, some 200km south of Kununurra, was devastated by a catastrophic 1:300 year flood event. 300 people were relocated to Kununurra for 12 months while some 100 houses were rebuilt.

Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects were tasked with rebuilding the community facility buildings and the old Walumba Aged Care centre. Working directly with the community elders and the Home and Community Care staff, iph designed a new home for the elders based on their Cultural and social needs, while still complying with the requirements of an Aged Care Centre that can provide a range of services under the Commonwealth “flexible aged care provisions”.

The site was selected to be close to the school and town centre to ensure the Elders are able to continue their role as educators and Cultural leaders. This site was still in the flood zone so the facility was designed to be above the 2011 flood level – standing some 3m off the ground like a bridge or jetty, and linked to the ground with a stone pitched driveway, walkways and stairs.

The Centre performs several functions; it is the home for the residents and staff who have a range of living support needs, it provides a commercial kitchen for the residents and a “meals-on-wheels” service, laundry, a common dining and activity area which is also a central meeting and celebration areas for the community, gender specific private activity areas to allow for gender specific Cultural activities to occur and a generous courtyard for the residents to enjoy.

The common area has a fire-pit to allow for the cooking of bush foods, and art troughs and space for a range of activities. It is overlooked by the laundry – a drum-like feature and the administration area.

The form of the building responds to the dramatic landscape of Warmun- the two wings of the building create mens’ and womens’ spaces while the “beachhead” of the entry and common activity area anchors the building to the land. Staircases and ramps link the main level of the facility to the ground.

The roofs define generous verandah spaces, folding to provide shade and weather protection. Due to the heat of the area night time activities are very important to the community so the facility is lit with LED lights to provide safe activity spaces and to address CPTED issues raised by night time activities in the community.

Cultural Design The facility managed factors inherent in Aboriginal culture such as: • acknowledging reciprocal responsibilities between family members • balancing privacy of the residents while allowing family access for support, • requirements for access to outdoor living spaces, both public and private, • supporting Lore and Culture activities including ceremonies that may involve fire and smoke, • ensuring connection with the general activities of the community. • gender separation • avoidance relationships (eg. son-in-law/mother-in-law relationships) • “Cultural Surveillance” consideration • managing inter-family conflict issues • Funerary or “Sorry business” issues

The facility has been designed to maximise shade throughout the day with the use of vertical polyester shading panels for natural lighting. Many of the residents are painters and have poor eyesight so high levels of natural light are desired.

Breeze paths have been carefully considered and pavilions are spaced to provide breeze paths across activity areas to provide for natural cooling.

Low energy level, long life LED lamps have been used extensively. Water heating via Solar Hot water system with a continuous flow pump. Cooling is via DX Split ACs with reed switches to openings and run-down timers on all units to ensure system shutdowns. All building systems are designed to be serviced by local contractors based in Kununurra and were specified to ensure compatibility of systems across Warmun communities assets. High levels of insulation including verandah soffits.

Cultural Sustainability Addressing the Cultural requirements of the Giga people is a sustainability initiative. The Cultural needs of the community were given priority provided they did not conflict with the BCA or the Commonwealth Flexible Aged Care requirements.

Our design initiatives for some Cultural Criteria are as follows • reciprocal responsibilities - by providing a variety of spaces for family members of all ages to meet • balancing privacy and family access- via controlling entry points to the facility to allow for simple visitation control • generous outdoor living and private balconies to all bedrooms • supporting Lore and Culture activities- fire pits on the main and ground activity areas, FIP isolation of rooms for smoking ceremonies, gender specific private activity areas • avoidance relationships- by providing multiple paths of travel and good passive surveillance • Cultural surveillance- by providing good internal and external passive surveillance • Supporting cultural activities by planting bush medicine plants and smoking ceremony plants

This project provides a poetic and elegant expression of Colorbond corrugated sheet cladding and structural tubing. A reinforced concrete slab and robust circular columns support an essentially all-steel project.

Undulating roof planes- essentially a series of sliced gable roofs linked by oversized 6mm steel box gutters provide overarching shade to smaller closed pavilions and verandah spaces between them.

Pavilions are spaced to provide breezeway activity spaces and all verandahs soffits are lined with "Hedland" Colorbond corrugated sheeting. Serpentine steel balusters form a support for Modwood privacy screens and brass handrails.

Shading devices along the edge of the building eaves are steel frames, clad with 3.6kg/m2 Polyester Sheet that provides shade and daylighting to activity areas- dramatically backlit at night providing even light for activities and good lighting for security. The rich colours of the soffit and wall cladding are brought out at night creating contrasting night and day spaces. The colours and form of the building respond directly to the dramatic hill and river landscape of Warmun community- and when the rains come the box gutters create 6 unique waterfalls that the children of the community play under to the delight of the Elders in residence.

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