Upcoming Projects


Bower 23 Community Development

Co-Design and Co-Build

Lands of the Yorta Yorta, Bunurong and Wurundjeri People

Thanks for showing your interest in joining this year’s Bower Studio Community Development elective subject worth 12.5 credit points. I’m really looking forward to this subject. It’s always a joy to work with students, community groups and collaborate to produce meaningful projects.

We will start our program by visiting our project with the indigenous Cummeragunja community at the Dungala (Murray) River on the border of Victoria and New South Wales.

We will also be undertaking the main ‘build’ part of the project with the African Refugee community at Springvale designing and constructing an outdoor kitchen/relaxation space by their kitchen garden. The designs have not been fully finalised but will likely include paving and a pergola structure plus timber furniture. We will work with the community to do the design and construction work (don’t worry if you haven’t used tools before as we will teach you). This project will form a ‘pattern book’ of ideas to help inform the design of the proposed community centre. The community is called Afri-AusCare.

We have been allocated 3 weeks for the program (between 20th November and 8th December). This is scheduled to be after your studio hand-ins and exams so there will not be a clash with other uni commitments. There will be a short preliminary session on Monday 6th November so we can prepare for the studio program together. Final submission is 8th December.

I will admit that it can be challenging to address and schedule the many intersecting complexities around consultations, teaching, designing and building alongside pragmatics like travel and accommodation. This is not your usual university subject and Bower Studio has a reputation for thriving in complex situations and producing a range of excellent student outputs. I’m trying to settle the exact travel dates for the program atm – not always an easy thing to tie down with partner communities I’m afraid!! I am anticipating that we will visit our existing project at Cummeragunja for two/three days/nights in the first week.

Following that we will begin the key construction/design works with a new partner community in Springvale. This means that we can commute from our homes to the site for that second week. The third week might have some final construction finishes but the bulk of the time will be on the final assessment task.

The handbook suggests that the travel and accommodation costs might be up to $2300. This is unlikely to be the case if you can carpool your travel to Cummeragunja and Springvale. I would allow $100 each person for fuel for all site visits (if you can carpool). Accommodation for Bower students when working at Cummeragunja has traditionally been ‘on country’ with students camping – so that won’t cost anything if you can get your hands on some gear. (Don’t worry if you haven’t camped before – we are experts at helping you learn).

The good news is that we have secured some philanthropic funds to support each student with a $200 stipend (which might also help you buy some new camping gear and cover travel costs!!).

There will be other Bower Studio staff joining us during the full program including Nicky Henderson and James Neil, plus additional staff from Stavrias Architecture and visits from Maggie Sisila (my PhD student from Tanzania). They are a great group of people, talented teachers and really, knowledgeable designers and builders.

A couple of final points…

We will need some members of our team to have a driver’s licence and access to a car so please tell me if you can help with this. We have had plenty of students joining us for their first camping trip so it doesn't matter if you haven't done this before. You will be in safe hands.

You don't need to have building experience. We will teach everyone how to safely use the tools required for the project. You will feel like a pro when you return!

It won't matter if you don't know anyone on the team (yet). Really strong friendships have emerged within groups of Bower students as they share a life changing experience together.

Please also submit a 250 word statement saying why you would like to participate. Send this directly to the Bower Studio team at this email address: bower.studio.info@gmail.com and to me at djobrien@unimelb.edu.au

Please feel free to get back to me if you have any questions.

Regards, David