This week’s Design Notes from Tone Tuesday

Learning from mining camps

We are facing a housing crisis, and we need solutions to the housing shortage now, not in two or ten years when HAFF starts producing perhaps 6,000 homes a year.

But we also have a housing construction crisis: a planning freeze; High material prices; Bankruptcy of construction companies; Affiliates raise prices to make up for lost income; Increasingly difficult building regulations. Costs are up 50%, and starts are down 50%.

A quick fix that has been offered several times since World War II is “prefabricated” or “modular” housing, and so it is again. As part of the NSW Budget, Premier Chris Minns and Housing Minister Rose Jackson touted modular housing that will be explored as part of the $224 million housing package. And then he didn’t mention it again.

We all know where this thought bubble is headed: factory-built housing has a shameful reputation in Australia. Refugee camps, mobile home “parks,” and mining camps. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Perhaps the development of mining camps, and many recent innovations, can teach us a way forward to build immediate suburbs as part of the housing solution.

Remote camps for workers (traditionally all men) have long been part of mining and infrastructure projects. Often with big players involved. Dick Dusseldorf, founder of Lend Lease, came to Australia in the 1950s with 14 Dutch carpenters/contractors to build a hamlet of houses for the Snowy Mountain Scheme. He found the potential and expertise undeniably attractive, stayed, and the rest is history for Australia’s most influential developer.

In April 1971, A. V. Jennings won a contract to build 53 townhouses, 15 duplexes and 36 men’s quarters at the Panaonica mining site in Washington. The first houses were completed in 6 months, and by June 1972 all the houses were built. The city was officially gazetted, and the first shipment of iron ore departed for Japan. In 2009, after nearly 40 years, Rio Tinto renovated 232 homes, built 126 courtyards, and built a bar and a swimming pool.

Another Western Australian town is Shay Gap (above), designed by Lawrence Howroyd in 1970, which won an award of merit in the Prince Philip Australian Design Award in 1974. At its peak, the town had a population of over 850 people, but when mining activities in In 1993, the city was closed and the buildings and structures were sold, demolished or transferred to the city of Jari.

The town of Glenden, 110 kilometers southwest of Mackay in Queensland, which was built in the 1980s to support the mining project’s workforce, was due to close in July this year. Mining company Glencore terminated the Newlands coal mine and under Queensland legislation, they were required to close the town and rehabilitate the site as part of the lease. But residents’ objections saved the city (surprise, surprise housing crisis) in August.

The upside of mining towns is speed, downside quality and longevity. But changes are coming. As Glenden explains, the demise of Gap Tea should not be the norm. The quality of construction is improving.

This is the new prefabricated ‘donga’ at Mineral Resources’ future iron ore mine at Ken’s Bore, just south of Karratha in Western Australia. It has been renamed the “Pod”, has much better amenities, and is even marketed as being like a “resort”. Well, no. But being twice the average size, with the usual home furnishings of en-suite bathroom, kitchen, balcony, laundry and barbecue, it responds to the rise in income and the demand for the best; Not to mention the increased participation of women demanding changes.

We know that prefabricated buildings are a winning solution: they are much more sustainable as materials can be recycled within the factory and employees work safely inside. But it never caught on. We must seize the “crisis” opportunity to develop a well-funded, sustainable prefabricated housebuilding industry, which can quickly and safely produce homes for sites on government land, to immediately address homelessness and the shortage of housing for key workers.

Now that the mining industry has raised its game, we should take another look at how well it works and avoid its pitfalls. There is so much to learn and adapt that, if built well, we can add permanent homes near suburban centers; Or they may serve as a starting point while we wait for longer-term solutions that take five years from inception to full delivery.

State bank stealth

As the referendum rages on, the climax of Paul Keating’s brilliance in Redfern’s speech is on repeat again. But as anger at Qantas grows, we are also reminded of Keating’s failure to support its privatization. With housing interest rates rising alongside bank profits, it is reviving debate over his push to privatize the Commonwealth Bank.

While the big four Australian banks were piling on home loans, there was an occasional chime from leftists that we should return the Commonwealth Bank to public ownership. But that egg cannot be solved. However, the Labor government would like to get its hands on some tools to lower housing deposits and interest rates.

Now RMIT University is offering a back-door solution with a radical proposal: proposing to buy public housing on the open market, repair it, modernize it, and rent it to low-income families; Or they may be sold on a ‘rent to buy’ basis. The media, with the exception of the League of Revolutionary Forces, largely ignored the proposal, even calling it “Bolshevism.”

But I think this has many attractive aspects. There is an upside to the government bypassing banks to fund loans directly to low-income families. It replaces the Commonwealth Bank (and others) with the government subsidizing willing homeowners; The ability to directly influence loan and deposit rates and the design and quality of the homes you purchase.

In effect, it brings banking back into the public domain, but without a bank.

MOMA is environmentally friendly

A new exhibition opens this week at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, titled “Emerging Environments: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism.” Its organization is partly funded by the Emilio Ambasz Foundation, formed by the architect whose plans integrated landscape and buildings (see International Hall of Conservation 1990, Fukuoka, Japan).

Through the filter of art, the exhibition goes back to the 1950s and 1970s to showcase architecture as it addresses the emergence of environmental concerns. The design above is a 1982 project by Eugene Tsui (American, born 1954), called “Venturus”, a wind-generated residence for Mr. and Mrs. Peter Cook, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Height and section through the entrance tunnel. Watercolor, prismacolor pencil, pastel chalk and colored ink on paper.

It’s running until late January, so there’s plenty of time to get to New York.

Return to Castle Cove

Recent articles have criticized councils for spending extraordinary resources to protect very ordinary Victorian and Federal homes of low value (eg Willow Grove last week). At the same time, it allows high-quality modernist homes to languish.

A few months ago I wrote about the threat to Harry Howard’s Castle Cove home from a massive McMansion mansion that wouldn’t fit on any site, let alone Harborside in the bush. Opposition came from local residents, the council rejected the application, but now the architect has applied to the Land and Environment Court.

One of the main objectors was the owner of Jerry Rippon’s house next door (above and below). An unusual exercise of white brick and concrete runs down the slope, arguably more interesting than the Howard House, but both complement each other, leaving large areas of sites for vistas through the bush in a way that cannot be replicated once the flames are up and area rules apply.

The fear expressed by the architect’s son, Scott Rippon, and others is that the blocks will merge or there will be McMansions. The really good design of the twentieth century will disappear, while the ordinary vernacular will be preserved. The Palestinian is the one who knows the price of everything but does not know the value of anything.


Marcia Langton has been subjected to vicious and ill-informed comments from the No campaign. My answer is along the lines of: “By their works you will know them.” None from Dutton, Price and Mundine. On the other hand, Langton “The Gobas” has given us an unusual gift: a guide to important Aboriginal sites in Australia.

Very few of us know anyone who is indigenous, who make up 3.8%. But we can gain an understanding, and thus an appreciation, of original design, creativity, and cultural qualities through this guide. The second edition, just over a year later, nearly doubled the number of locations. This is the demand that Australians are making to find quality in Aboriginal life.

Exit signs

We are awash in infrastructure, and signals that are not coordinated with it.

Ton Weller Architect / Opinions expressed are his own.

these Design notes We are Tuesday ringtone #180.

past Tuesday ringtone Columns can be found here

past A&D is something else Columns can be found here

You can Contact TW at (email protected)

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