Titjikala Student Blog

Sunday 27 April

Today was our first day in Titjikala. The Bower staff and one of the students arrived a day early for community engagement, focusing our attention on the younger generation of the Titjikala community by building a cubby with the kids. The Bower Cubby was prototyped at Brunswick South West Primary School in Melbourne and the University of Melbourne’s Early Learning Centre and we are very excited about the opportunity to test the success of the cubby in Titjikala. As we hoped the kids loved it!

When we arrived at Titjikala, as it was a Sunday, many members of the community were gathered waiting for the church service to commence. David spoke with the pastor, Phillip, an important member of the community who was happy to introduce us to the congregation after the service.

After the service, the parents and children joined us for a BBQ and we introduced the Bower Cubby to the kids. The kids were an inquisitive and enthusiastic bunch. Once they explored the contents of the cubby, they discovered how the panels joined together and set out to build. The panels were used to create space, shelter and shade and the kids especially enjoyed using them as canvases to draw on. They wrote their names and ‘Titjikala’ onto the cubby walls, drew numbers, love hearts, stars and flowers. Pipe cleaners became decorations or tying members, and rope and garden ties were used to secure the cubby formation. Fabric and tarps were used as curtains, rugs, blankets and to create shade.

The kids proved what excellent inventors, designers and builders they are by building a fabulous cubby, which was enjoyed by the community all afternoon. We look forward to commencing the build at Stephanie’s house tomorrow and continuing to facilitate the Bower Cubby with the kids!

Kathleen Kopietz
Master of Architecture Student

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Monday 28 April

The big day finally arrives! The location for the first outdoor living area is Stephanie’s house, a house with no verandas and little shade from vegetation.

Preliminary preparation of the site saw the steel from Stramit moved from the Titjikala Shire work shed, where it was stored, to Stephanie’s front yard. Discussions with Stephanie and James (from Natural Direction) finalised the preferred location of the outdoor living area and the build commenced! Groups of four went about digging the footing holes, measuring and bolting the main structural columns to the overhead beams, and gathering the required materials for the concrete pour. A quick stop at the Titjikala general store for tuna sandwiches and icy-poles refuelled the group, definitely needed in the heat of the day!

We were lucky to welcome Paddy and Andrew mid-afternoon who introduced us to a number of the younger local guys eager to give us a hand, and together we were able to raise the staples (structural columns attached to main beam) into the footing holes and pour in the concrete. Children from the neighbouring houses were curious and came to give us a hand.

During this time, a group of students spent the afternoon on a small tour of the greater Titjikala community with a few of the locals, to discuss together how people like to use the outdoor spaces surrounding their homes. Most commented that an outdoor living area, like the one we are building at Stephanie’s, would complement their homes and their time spent outdoors, which was great feedback for Bower and the projects Bower facilitates. Overall, it was a fantastic first day on site, but still much work to complete – we are all looking forward to another great day tomorrow!

Mark Losewitz
Master of Architecture student

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Tuesday 29 April

Overnight there had been a weather change, and we awoke to cooler temperatures and what looked like rain clouds forming along the horizon. Better get to site before the rain hits!

We arrived on site mid-morning and were pleased to see that the concrete poured for the footings yesterday had set. After gathering for a quick site meeting to coordinate our day, we formed groups of four and set out with the aim of having the roof rafters and purlins up by the end of the day.

As one group worked with the angle grinder to cut the flanges for the rafters, the other groups worked on forming the scaffolding which would be required for the rest of the shelter construction.

It was clear that the shelter at Stephanie’s house was coming together quicker than expected, so it was time to start considering where the next shelter would be built. This was a particularly difficult task as we only had enough materials to make two shelters in total – when in reality, many more houses within Titjikala are in need of better outdoor shading.

After a consultation with shire council, several houses were identified as potential fits, and throughout the day we walked around Titjikala to try to identify which house was most in need. We looked at existing shade from trees or other structures, the location preference for outdoor gathering or sitting, and the size of the household.

Back on site, the team constructed temporary scaffolding out of some spare steel beams with form ply on top to create a platform. We used tech screws to construct the Y sections and these were then lifted up from the ground and handed to those who were standing on the scaffolding and screwed into the posts. Once both Y-sections were up, we screwed on the purlins. Overall, it was a job well done!

Linda Kennedy
Master of Architecture student

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Wednesday 30 April

After a treacherous night of wind and rain, we woke from our bush camp just before sunrise. We watched the landscape change as the sun rose; the shadows shrunk behind the trees and the colours of the land became more vibrant.

Back on site, we split off into groups for the day. One group fixed the roof sheeting to the purlins to finish the pavilion structure, another group went to the Art Centre to visit some of the women of Titjikala, while another group went to the health centre for a chat with the nurses.

At the Arts Centre, the women began taking us around the gallery explaining their artworks and the stories they told. The artworks were an interesting mix of dot painting, landscape paintings, wire and grass weavings and ceramic pieces.

At the health centre, we learnt what services were offered to the community. It was a valuable discussion which reiterated the importance of consultation with the community when community infrastructure is designed and built. The health centre alone has meetings with the community every three months to talk about many issues, including health. This information is vital to designing for an appropriate and meaningful outcome.

Back at Stephanie’s house, James from ARUP gave the students an engineering lesson, at times rudely interrupted by the local horse (called “Ere Boi”) who was trying to eat our food scraps. James fashioned an example of a portal frame from bits and pieces salvaged from the Tijikala tip and gave us a demonstration of how the pavilion transfers the load to the foundations. He also explained the importance of the correct location and amount of tech screws in each connection, silencing our questions about why the structure requires so many tech screws.

In the afternoon some staff and students carried the Bower Cubby over to the after-school care centre for the kids to play with. We brought with us some beautiful drawings and books made by the kids from the University of Melbourne’s Early Learning Centre. The kids in Titjikala loved them and were excited to create some fantastic drawings for us to take back to the kids in Melbourne. The drawings illustrated what the kids had made with the Bower Cubby and all the various things the Cubby could become such as a “playground”, a “ hiding place” and a “house” to name a few. Leoma and Ida told us they were making a Wali Wali, an indigenous word that translates to cubby or a temporary shelter. Leoma, Ida, Jamie, Sharaya and Tom made two Wali Wali’s from the cubby materials. One was a big circular Wali Wali with openings and the other a teepee shaped Wali Wali.

Nicole Henderson, Kurt Jury and Shinae Vredenbregt
Master of Architecture students

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Thursday 01 May

Early this morning we split into two groups, with one heading back to Alice Springs to price some materials for furniture for the outdoor living areas, while the remainder of the crew headed back to site to consult with Stephanie regarding furniture and to commence work on the second pavilion.

Further discussions with Stephanie finalised what sort of furniture would best compliment how she would like to use her outdoor living space. Together we will build a table and seat, which connects to the structure as well as a free-standing round table. A number of factors narrowed down the location of Mari’s house as the location for the second outdoor living area. Mari’s house has some existing shade from a small veranda and mature trees however, given the time the family spends outside, there is not sufficient shade. This is a reoccurring observation found here in Titjikala (as well as other Indigenous communities Bower has worked with) so it was a difficult choice.

The digging of holes and the prefabrication of the posts commenced on the second site, ready for our return next week. We’re now very much looking forward to a couple of days of exploring the red centre before we return.

Shinae Vredenbregt
Master of Architecture student

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Monday 05 May

After a weekend off we were all really excited to get back to Titjikala to continue with Stephanie’s furniture and Mari’s pavilion. We split into two groups with the students who had previously spoken to Stephanie about the furniture heading to her house, and the other group working at Mari’s.

Upon arriving at Stephanie’s it was great to see that Stephanie and several of her family members were ready to help us, and extremely excited about the prospect of the furniture. We spent the majority of the morning figuring out the logistics of all the pieces before we began building. Once the design was finalised, Stephanie’s cousin Syddie Jacko helped out with all of the drilling and cutting, which meant that most of the fixed bench was finished by the end of the day.

While the furniture was being built at Stephanie’s and the staples and Y sections were being raised at Mari’s, I was fortunate enough to be invited to sit with Stephanie, her grandmother Nora, and her aunt Diane around the fire where they were making tapping sticks and wooden animals. It was an amazing opportunity to chat with the women about passing information and skills through generations of women, daily life in Titjikala, and going bush. After talking with the women Stephanie’s aunt gave me a painted necklace and timber art piece. I was overwhelmed by their openness and generosity.

While building the furniture and pavilion was really satisfying, the highlight of my day was being welcomed by the women, holding one of the women’s baby and learning about art and women’s lives in a contemporary Indigenous community. We left Stephanie’s with her family sitting together on the furniture that we had built with them today, which excited everyone for tomorrows work at Mari’s.

Samantha Mofflin
Master of Architecture student

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Tuesday 06 May

Today marked our seventh day on site in Titjikala and our time here is rapidly coming to a close. As usual, we began by discussing the goals of the day and splitting into smaller groups to tackle a number of tasks. The primary elements of the second structure were in place at Mari’s, ready for the next stage of roofing construction. As this was taking place, the furniture at Stephanie’s house was being finalised and finishing touches were being added.

In addition to the fixed tabletop and benches installed at Stephanie’s house, a smaller, movable table was built using reclaimed car rims and timber. The rims were taken to the Titjikala workshop where they were welded together to create the base of the circular table. While this was taking place a wind chime was designed and put together using leftover wood and steel rod. Along the northern side of Stephanie’s house, some Happy Wanderer vines were planted to soften the steel of the structure and provide additional shade and colour.

Lunchtime saw a small group of students visit the art centre where local artists make and exhibit much of their work. Of particular interest to me, were the carvings and bead necklaces. Although Titjikala is a relatively small community, a high volume of artwork is produced, all of exceptional quality.

The afternoon at Mari’s saw work on the roof continue and discussions regarding furniture. A fixed bench and a moveable table were designed and initial construction began. As the day wrapped up we saw huge progress and the completion of Marie’s structure with only finishing touches to the furniture required for our final day in Titjikala.

Brendan Josey
Master of Architecture student

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Wednesday 07 May

Today we arrived at Titjikala for the last day of the Bower 2014 Project. With the main structures completed at both sites, we were left only with the finishing touches of the furniture for both of the outdoor living areas. At Stephanie’s, this comprised of completing a fixed low bench, a fixed screen, a fixed high table, a movable round table and a number of seats. At Mari’s, the team completed a fixed low bench positioned to soak up winter sun yet shy away from the summer sun, a low table where Mari and her friends could comfortably work on art and craft projects, and wind chimes made from materials found locally. At Stephanie’s house, Syddie Jacko wove stools made of repurposed old wheels. Screws were placed around the rims and coloured rope was weaved into a web formation.

They looked fantastic and were very comfortable. After finishing work on both sites, we had a sausage sizzle at Marie’s house with her and her neighbours to celebrate the work we had done. Following the sausage sizzle, the students and staff made one last trip to Stephanie’s house to farewell her and her family, who we found already using the outdoor living space and the furniture. It meant a lot to the entire group to know that what we had created together was already being used at both households. We left Titjikala with a great sense of how fortunate we were to have had the opportunity to get to know the Titjikala community, and gain a greater understanding of remote housing.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported the Bower 2014 Project. This memorable experience has not only allowed us to work alongside the Titjikala community constructing the two outdoor living areas, but it has also given everyone involved the opportunity to share skills and have meaningful and insightful discussions regarding life in indigenous communities.

Bella Bower, Luke Madden, Alex Slater and Amelia Ware
Master of Architecture students

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