Upcoming Projects

Karungkarni Arts Centre

The award-winning Bower Studio was formed in 2008 and works with indigenous communities in remote Australia and Papua New Guinea. What makes this program so relevant is the way students travel to these communities to work alongside locals on important community development projects.

Teams of Bower Studio students have co-designed and co-built culture facilities with the Kalkaringi community since 2014. The relationship has strengthened year by year and several projects have now been completed.

We have been invited to compliment the work Bower Studio completed at the local Karungkarni Arts Centre in 2018 when a team worked with the community to double the space available to artists in a culturally appropriate and sustainable way.

The artists have asked us to extend the space and capture views and morning sunlight. Gina Dahl, a Bower student in 2021, has been involved preparing a design following her extensive consultation with the community. Gina has written about her experiences in Architecture and Design magazine.

Her design works to naturally cool the interior and reduce dust as well as supporting a new generation of artists. Sketch designs have been approved and a kit-of-parts is now being prepared to be sent from MSD in a shipping container via train and road to arrive in time for us to complete stage 1 of the new works during semester 1 2023.

This program begins at the Parkville campus before some time working with our steel prefabricator (located in Malmsbury) to prepare our kit-of-parts to be sent to the Kalkaringi community in remote Northern Territory. After Easter we take two weeks to travel to Kalkaringi and help assemble the structure. When we return to campus you will prepare your own design for stage 2 works at Karungkarni (level C students) or for new culture spaces to be determined with community consultation (level D, E students).

Eligibility and how to apply

A group of 16 students will be selected to participate in the program, and any Masters level design students enrolled in Design C, D, or E at the Melbourne School of Design are eligible to apply.

Students interested in applying for the program should speak to their subject coordinators during O Week 2023, with applications to be made directly through subject coordinators for Design C, D and E.

You can also show your interest (and improve uour selection chances) by sending an email directly to the Bower Studio team -bower.studio.info@gmail.com.

In your application, we want to hear about why you are excited about visiting remote parts of Australia and working with the Karungkarni mob. It would also be good for us to know if you are applying to have this processed as a Design C, D, or E subject or if you would like to do the project as Design Thesis. Add your telephone number in case we have any questions.

Please be aware that this project includes extended time ‘on-country’, travel, hard work and some very basic accommodation and food. Check the student blog on the Bower Studio website to get some idea of the students’ experience.

Proposed Schedule

When we are at MSD this subject is scheduled 9am to 12pm to Mondays with some additional Thursday classes towards the end of semester. There are also some intensive phases.






Mon 27 Feb


  • Background /overview
  • Intro readings
  • Intro research strategy


Mon 6 Mar


  • Discussion
  • OHS
  • Intro tasks
  • Cultural competency 1


Mon 13 Mar


  • Prefab team 1 Task 1


Mon 20 Mar


  • Prefab team 2 Task 2


Mon 27 Mar


  • Review research booklet
  • Cultural competency 2


Mon 3 Apr


  • Pack container


Mon 17 Apr


  • Mid semester review research booklet


Sun 23 Apr – Sun 30 Apr


  • Build/Consult/Design


Mon 1 May – Wed 3 May


  • Build/Consult/Design


Mon 8 May

Thur 11 May


  • Design strategy


Mon 15 May

Thur 18 May


  • Design strategy


Mon 22 May

Thur 25 May


  • Design strategy
  • Preview presentation




  • Canvas submission




  • Final presentation

* Please note that this schedule may have to change as circumstances arise during the program. We will do our very best to keep you informed of any changes as early as possible.


  • How do you travel to the community?

    A lot of Bower Studio learning takes place ‘on-country’ and Kalkaringi is a long way away. Students fly to Darwin and car-share 4WD vehicles to travel to the community.

  • Where do we stay at Kalkaringi?

    There is a shortage of housing and no hotels at Kalkaringi so we stay at the various campsites surrounding the community.

  • What if I haven’t got any camping experience?

    No problem – we have had plenty of students joining us for their first camping trip. You will be in safe hands.

  • I understand that there is a lot of ‘hands-on’ building to do. Do I 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!

  • Is it easy to make friends with the rest of the students?

    A definite yes to this one. Really strong friendships have emerged within groups of Bower students as they share a lifechanging experience together.

  • How much will this cost?

    The university is offering a bursary to participating students. This should be enough to cover your flights to Darwin and back and your share of the 4WD hire. You will need to cover fuel costs and your contribution to the food budget (around $600). Accommodation is free if you have your own tent, sleeping mat and bag.

  • Is there time for me to do any sightseeing at the national parks in the Northern Territory?

    Yes previous student groups have extended the trip and visited various waterholes.

Further information

Contact Dr David O’Brien


The teaching staff includes David O’Brien, James Neil, George Stavrias (Bower graduate 2009, 2010), Gina Dahl (2021), Jack Hinkson (2013).