2022 - Cummeragunja,
New South Wales

Cummeragunja Learning Precinct

  • Location: Cummeragunja, NSW
  • Project start: June 2019
  • Awarded: University of Melbourne Excellence Award in Placed-based Initiatives 2022

The Cummeragunja community lives on the banks of the Murray River in New South Wales close to Barmah township on land owned by the Yorta Yorta Land Council. Elders have approached Bower Studio to support the development of an on-country learning precinct to become a focal point for a range of cultural teaching activities. Community members have identified on-country learning as an important way to celebrate their cultural heritage and foster their future identity.

Bower Studio has partnered with the Academy of Sport, Health and Education (ASHE) and the Cummeragunja Housing and Development Association (CHADAC) to work with community elders to develop the selected site between the Viney Morgan Aboriginal Medical Service and Murray River. An incremental approach ensures that the project is undertaken in a collaborative way and that the initial designs can easily be adapted as circumstances change.

The project began in 2019 with a series of conversations linking the community with Bower Studio, ASHE, CHADAC and the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council. It was proposed to construct a pavilion from local timber to become a focal point for the culture precinct. In breaks between the 2020 COVID19 lockdowns a small team of Bower Studio and Cummeragunja leaders selected timber poles from a stockpile of ‘thinnings’ from the local red river gum forests. At the community’s suggestion these would provide posts and beams for an open-sided pavilion commonly known as a ‘bough shed’. A number of consultation meetings, sketch models and drawings led the Bower team towards the current design – a forest of nine timber columns supporting a perforated steel roof filtering dappled light.

As part of the consultations Bower Studio fabricated a series of 1:10 and 1:5 scale sketch models for community discussion and these were further developed alongside ARUP engineers. The columns and beams are connected by custom steel brackets and supported on textured concrete footings and seating inside the pavilion.

In 2020 during consultation visits a series of five timber poles were installed outside CHADAC to both test a series of connection details at 1:1 scale and help facilitate community discussions. These prototypes have since been modified with the support of Arup engineers and bespoke steel connecting brackets have now been fabricated.

Stage 1 Construction February 2021

The timber pavilion requires 4 concrete pads to support the steel brackets that will, in future, connect to the timber posts.

The 24 Bower Studio students, enrolled in a Construction Methods class, were joined by 5 students from ASHE.

Stage 2 Construction March 2021

Elders asked that the seating within the pavilion referenced the shapes of the boomerangs used on this country. Textures were set into parts of the concrete to remind visitors of some of the stories that speak to the local landscape and Cummeragunja history.

Community Leaders

  • Uncle Col Walker
  • May Andy Walker
  • David Atkinson
  • Coke Walker

Studio Leaders

  • David O’Brien
  • Zoe Diacolabrianos
  • James Neil
  • Rob Briggs
  • Jack Hinkson

Student Mentor

  • Damien Cresp

ASHE Students

Narita Knowles, Cheyanne Cooper, Kobey Sincoe, Noah Cranage, Leon Johnson

Students Stage 1 Construction

Adam Legg, Bronwen Main, Marnie Henderson, Perri Sparnon, Yuan Liang, Frank Guo, Ognen Slavkovski, Katherine Burns, Marc McHenry, Brittany Devlin, Hugh Matthews, Jinrui Liu, Maia Guppy-Hall, Ellen Bloor, Isabel Roden, Morna Hu, Christopher Ames, Dirk Du Toit, Kate Donaldson, Andrew Wilson, Christine Chen, Kristian Greif, Christopher Weir, Zhe Li

Students Stage 2 Construction

Jordan Smith, Elizabeth Bradbury, Jennifer Papaikonomou, Paul Newcomen, Ruby Mazzocco, Zichun Wang, Lewis Vitsentzatos, Nina Holden, Carla Mileo, Ryan Small, Ivelina Fukarova, Neve Elliott, Luke Garrett, Patrick Jago, Megan Helper, James Urlini, Felix Garner-Davis, Isaac Laker, Leona Chadwick, Phan Nguyen, Lukas Orsanic, Christine Yankoulas, Luisa Cavalieri, Xavier Da Costa E Silva, Johnathan Chu, Nasrin Fattahi, Hosna Eqbal, Ale Sotelo Cortes, Matilda Cole

Industry Partners

  • Arup (Brigitte Danks, John Noel)
  • Surdex
  • Milwaukee

Industry partner logos