‘Kwatye Apwerte Inteye’


The brief involved the conversion of an existing concrete block laundry structure into a habitable secondary dwelling. The existing block walls were clad in recycled Ironbark board & batten and COR-TEN steel to the Northern wall. A mutual sense of privacy is delineated by a large separating rammed earth wall. The space between the separation becomes a small outside court. The existing roof gutter is extended to meet the wall and water is encouraged to flow down through the earth wall's face following a carved out flow-path. The water follows the path trickling guided by the rock until meeting a single desert shrub at the ground.

The rock formations around the site (Tjoritja - Mt Gillen in the MacDonnell Ranges) are formed through a process of deposition (sedimentary layering) erosion from water and gravity over time. The Arrernte Aboriginal dreamtime story tells of the rock and mountain formations being created by giant caterpillars.

This sedimentary layering and a natural hydrological erosion is expressed within the project through the use of a (northern) rammed earth wall which acts as an aqua duct. In times of rain, water is delivered from the roof to a concrete channel acting as the (reinforced) bond beam for the compressed earth (lifts). The channel carries the water to a glazed ceramic flow path carved into the rock walls face. The flow path is reliant on the natural forces of gravity as water flows down within the wall like the formation of a cliff-face. The water eventually finds landing in a tiny pond the size of a dog bowl – where it can serve the drinking of any ‘wild’ dogs (in reference to Ayeye Akngwelye Mpartnwe-arenye). The bowl shape overflows to a single small desert shrub, in a poetic act of water connection and tree growth symbiosis. water connects with tree.

The wall has a significant thermal mass making it’s openings and sill(s) a great spot for lizards to regulate. The wall also serves a primary function as a privacy screen, denoting a sense of ‘separation’ for the new small residence. The existing walls are clad in board & battens sourced from recycled Ironbark sleepers (North Western wall) and COR-TEN steel (North Eastern wall). The Ironbark sleepers are resistant to termites but should still not come into direct contact with the ground. At the base of the cladding is a skirting of concrete planter trays holding vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) and Catnip – this grass as well as catnip is a natural termite (and other insects) repellent.

The existing roof’s ceiling is to be re-insulated with 'earthwool' insulation of a (minimum) R Value of R4.1. The existing concrete floor could be burnished and softened with new grass mats woven from stripped and bush dyed Pandanus collected in the area by the local Arnhem crafts people. The shower would suit the restorative and air filtering qualities of indoor vines and hanging plants. Concrete planter trays may be fixed at the top of the dividing partition allowing the overhanging plants to be watered by the shower mist