Bower Studio Blog


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 9
13 June, 2017
Daniel Bisetto

Day 9 was an exciting day on site at the Wadeye Media pavilion. It was a Tuesday, the day after the Queen’s Birthday. Whilst being irrelevant for nearly everybody everywhere (well, the footy was a thrilling see-sawing affair with quite a few magpie totems in the crowd), the Bower team celebrated, as it meant we could finally get our hands on some smooth concrete mixed in the barrel of a truck, rather than a gritty brew inside a rusty old wheelbarrow.

The formwork for the remainder of the pavilion seating had already been constructed, and the local concrete truck chugged around the site. The fabulous golden Capper-esque mullet of the concrete truck driver was displayed prominently in the side-view mirrors as the team guided the truck back into various pour locations to finish off the seats. The definitive ‘slop’ sound of each concrete pour was a highlight, as well as watching Daniel (a local guy from the TDC work crew) carefully bless each horizontal concrete surface with his trowel, an area of construction he later told me he wished to pursue further.

After a final site clean, we finally had the chance to begin the Bower Cubby project. Instantly, all the kids became completely engrossed in the construction of their individual cubbies, consisting of prefabricated wood and cable ties. Many of the kids took their cubbies back home, and filled them blankets and pillows. It reminded me of my childhood, and the youthful feeling of having your own little space.

However, it was the last day, and the excitement of the Bower Cubby project masked the unfortunate realisation that we had a long drive back to Darwin ahead. The Media Pavilion was officially wrapped up with acknowledgements and thanks, and we had a chance to meet William ‘Big Bird’ Parmbuk, one of many responsible for the transformation of the old club into what will hopefully be a thriving precinct of knowledge and culture.

We left in the late afternoon, and began the drive out of Wadeye on the long, red, dusty road. Loose cutlery and near empty butane canisters rattled in the back of the troopy as we cut through a country of billabongs and back-burning. As the sun set purple, our car discussed the next stage of the Wadeye project, one in which we hope to remain very much a part of.


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 8
12 June, 2017
Timothy Farrugia

Nearing the end of the Bower 17 build phase, the Pavilion was taking shape and almost at a point of completion. The last of the formwork was assembled and positioned ready for the following day’s pour. The A/V equipment was also securely mounted within the Media Box and all cabling was organized to provide a clear area for internal storage.

It happened to be a public holiday – the Queen’s Birthday – and many of the local children had the day off school. Students of the Bower Studio took this as an opportunity to engage with the local children, and invited them to participate in the building of small cubby houses. The cubbies were constructed out of timber panels, lengths of coloured rope, sheets of material and cable ties. It was great to see the creativity and imagination of the children, as they used the materials at hand to create their own unique small spaces. Working with the children – and even their parents – allowed the students to continue building relationships with members of the community, and also provided an insight and a reminder of the experiences of ‘play’ from a child’s point of view. This would provide a lesson for the students as to how we could possible consider younger people’s experiences in future designs.

The Queen’s Birthday Clash between Melbourne Demons and Collingwood was also broadcast from the Media Box during this time, and many Melbourne supporters came to the pavilion to watch the game. It was a great atmosphere within the pavilion, the sound of cheers from people watching the football, to the laughter of kids playing – the space was functioning positively despite still remaining a constructions site! Observing the events that took place today, it became clear how the space would continue to be used and all the events the space can accommodate.

To end the day, some students had the opportunity to visit and have the ‘Grand Tour’ of Wadeye’s Kanamkek-Yile Ngala Museum. Led by Mark Crocombe and Lyndon Ormond-Parker, the students were informed of local history, told many significant stories and observed the process of digitizing archival materials.


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 7
11 June, 2017
Victoria King

After a night camping among the sand dunes at Wadeye Beach, the moon hung low on the horizon as we drove in to town for another days work.  It was straight back into the finalizing of various tasks from the previous afternoon - completing the formwork for more bench seats around the screen, while work continued on the fixing and replacing of the roof purlins in the old pavilion roof structure.

Today we began to form up and mark out the placement of several panels of laser cut corten. These panels will act as decorative and playful “place markers” around the media box pavilion, signifying the area as precinct for cultural engagement within the community. It will be great to see these panels in place over the next few days.

This morning we also saw the first test images from the projector up on the big screen – a very exciting moment!

The town was noticeably quieter today as many families had ventured out beyond the centre of Wadeye to enjoy the Queen’s birthday long weekend. Work wrapped up for us in the early afternoon and the team enjoyed a break along with the rest of town. Some of the group drove out to Yederr for a long-awaited swim, while others took a trip to Fossil Head to go fishing among the mudflats.

Returning back to town in the evening, it was a wonderful to catch the first glimpse of the screen lit up at night, running some old archival footage. A small group of people, young and old, gathered in front, faces illuminated. Kids ran in giddy circles around the pavilion and a sense of excitement filled the air.


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 6
10 June, 2017
Alessia Valenza and Alexander McDonald

The day begun in a flurry of dust and sweat. An early start saw the weary eyed travellers on site at 7:30am but ready to battle.

Dan ‘Peas’ Bisetto jumped onto the grinder like a duck to water as he cut the men’s pavilion screens like hot butter through a knife.

Alessia ‘Al dente’ Valenza willed the rattle gun like a crazed chef on opening night as she tore the bolts from the formwork. No sheet was safe as the team of Sasha ‘Tree Fridge’ Briner, Hannah ‘Savage’ Willoughby Pearson, Dan ‘D-Day’ Kellett, Vishnu ‘Bonesaw’ Hazel, and Victoria ‘Roo-pasta’ King, ripped and rebuilt the equivalent of Rome within a single days concreting. Angles of abstracted plains dissected the pavilion floor like ‘the morning after’ dinner after a batch of bad prawns.

Brendan ‘The Bruce’ Monagle, and Al ‘Potato’ McDonald tested both emotional and irrational fears of two meter heights as they slashed down the rusting remnants of a roof of ages past. Covered in dust and debris they were able to replace the final purlins before retreating to the shade for a cup of powdered milk in humble celebration.

Nicola ‘the Nic’ Leong and Andrew ‘Legs’ Curnow danced like a pair of Brolgas in the afternoon sun as they wrangled the corrugated roof sheets into place atop the men’s pavilion.

Tim ‘Two Laces’ Farrugia clashed against the Wadeye media box in a battle of steel vs man. Sparks were reported all the way up to the Darwin coastline as the projector window was aligned and cut-out of the shipping container. Fortunately for ‘Two Laces’ he came out on top and was able to retreat to the camp where the rest of the team had found refuge.

All under the watchful eyes of David ‘Boss-man’ O’Brien, George ‘The Big Fetta’ Stavrias, and James ‘The Troweling Trinity’ Neil as they fixed the screens into place while warding off the local children like mozzies to fresh meat.

As the sun began to set, more children arose like warewolves on a full moon; back flipping and swinging off car roof racks we knew it wasn’t long until we wouldn’t make it out alive. Hurrying to escape we packed the cars and headed for shelter. Unfortunately, stragglers like Sasha ‘Tree Fridge’, didn’t make it and was swarmed by a mass of energetic minions.

Camp was set up on the beach this evening; with ever growing fears of the relentless crocs, it was decided that Al ‘Potato’ would be served up as sacrifice to the salt water gods.


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 5
9 June, 2017
Sasha Briner and Hannah Willoughby Pearson 

It was a busy day on site; two concrete pours, and the arrival of Stewart and Astrid from ARUP, and Lyndon Ormond-Parker. The pavilion is starting to take shape into the media cultural hub of Wadeye and there is lots of keen community interest.  

Due to the long weekend and it being Friday, only a few of the CDP local work team attended in the morning, helping us to power through the concrete pour and fixing the sheet metal to the roof of the men's pavilion. Because of the public holiday, we also had a final delivery of fresh concrete to the site this morning as well as an aggregate and cement delivery so that we can mix on site over the coming days. 

We formed up a long retaining wall along the southern face of the pavilion which will block the drainage of water from the roof coming into the pavilion as well as provide more seating along the perimeter. Another bench was also formed facing onto the street and both of these will be poured tomorrow. 

A couple of us bumped into a local TDC employee yesterday, the husband of Kathy - the manager of the arts centre/Palngun Wurnangat Womens Centre of Wadeye and we organised to meet a few of the ladies from the centre. We visited during the late morning and briefed them on the current construction in the pavilion and sought ideas for the design of the cultural precinct. We organised a meeting for next tuesday to give everyone a bit of time to think about and discuss ideas with friends and family about important things they would like to be included and considered. 

During our visit, Kathy told us that the women's centre was in the process of slowly transitioning to an ‘Arts Centre’, inclusive of both men and women in the community. However, it was still evident through discussions with the ladies and Kathy that the women's centre is still an important point of refuge for the women from a range of clans and families in the community. 

It was also interesting to note the women's role and feelings about the current and ongoing unsettled atmosphere in the Wadeye community. There was a strong feeling that the removal of the club and alcohol from the community was a good decision. 

After a long and productive day on site we packed up and finished off the day with a refreshing cyclone icy-pole - which we were told was a local favourite.


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 4
8 June, 2017
Nicola Leong & Andrew Curnow

Concrete concrete concrete concrete concrete concrete concrete concrete…. the concrete arrived! Yay! 

Day 4 began with an early start as we travelled back from Peppimenarti into Wadeye. The concrete truck arrived on site and the formwork for the screen was filled. A fantastic team effort between locals and students made light work of the six cubic metres of concrete required. The pouring of the concrete marked a high point for the project as the preparation of the formwork was finally rewarded.

On the south end of the pavilion additional purlins were replaced to improve the structure of the roof above. While this was happening students and locals worked together on the Mens Shelter, the ‘big shady’. With the concrete footings cured and ready, the team could fix the purlins to the rafters. A temporary scaffold was attached to the frame, for access and safety, as the team screwed the purlins in place.

The work on the front of the pavilion continued with the sign ‘Kardu Culture’ marked out ready to be painted. This led to some debate within the community about the translation and meaning of the phrase, which is translated literally as ‘people culture’. It was suggested to us that a alternative word to ‘Kardu’ could be used, however this is still being discussed.

Towards the end of the day, we marked out the location of the corten place making signs. They were positioned around the pavilion, to be visible from all approaches. The signs will tie together the cultural precinct and engage the entire site for our further designs. 
The formwork for the seating at the front of the pavilion was poured, with all hands on deck to move the concrete across the large slab. Large polystyrene blocks were buried within the concrete to save time and materials, but proved treacherous under foot as some felt the wet sticky pull of the concrete below.

Tomorrow involves further work on the big shady, and more concreting to look forward to. 


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 2
6 June, 2017
Vishnu Hazell and Timothy Farrugia

The Wadeye Media Box really started to take shape today with the installation of the frame for the screen, an electricity pole to connect the Box to the streets power line, and the formwork being set out for the seating around the screen. Also the pavilion was neatened up by removing some old insulation that was decaying and hanging down (see picture).

The screen will be used for the projection of archived cultural material such as local dance and song, recorded football games, and watching TV and films.

The screen required welding and sturdy bracing to secure it in the case of a cyclone. The boys from the boiler making workshop helped out with welding the screen in place and installing the electrical lines. The frame was then given an undercoat of paint to prevent rust from occurring.

There was also progress on the mens pavilion, screwing brackets to rafters in preparation for the next days installation.

Working alongside the TDC has proven to be a great opportunity for the Bower Studio members to build relationships and learn about local cultural and knowledge.

Some interesting conversations were based upon Murrinh-Patha, the linga franca of the Wadeye community. The community members taught the Studio members key phases such as… Ngay ka medayi,’I am hungry’. This became very relevant as lunch time neared.

Slowly conversations have been started around what a cultural centre would look like or means to the community. There has been lots of talk of the importance of art, song and dance and having places to perform, practice and sell products that the community makes.

On the way to camp the much anticipated Kakadu Plum, locally known as mi marrarl, was spotted, picked and tasted. The plum can contain up to 50 times the amount of Vitamin C than an orange and astronauts are known to take dried ones into space to maintain their vitamin levels.

Learning about local knowledge has been a highlight and we excited to learn more as our relationships in the community grow.


Wadeye Cultural Hub - Day 1
5 June, 2017
Brendan Monagle and Daniel Bisetto

The first day began meeting Mark Crocombe at the Kanamkek-Yile Ngala Museum, a history centre containing Wadeye’s story of a shared cultural ethos between Rainbow, a culturally significant figure within the Thamarrurr region, and Father Docherty, a prominent catholic missionary.

We then began the project underneath the existing pavilion; an expansive steel structure previously used for the social club. We were introduced to Tobias and Scott, indigenous and non-indigenous members of the Thamarrurr Development Corporation, as well as some of the local men from Wadeye and surrounding country. The focus of the introduction was centred around learning from each other, and creating an environment of inclusion where we could all work towards a common goal. David O’Brien also began to introduce the scope of the project, in which he highlighted that both groups - the Bower team and TDC local workers - were still undergoing a phase of learning, and that we could learn a lot from each other throughout the delivery of the project.

It was then time to open the Wadeye media box, a shipping container sent from Melbourne holding supplies for the project, but also a structure to house the audio-visual equipment for the project. One of the local guys unlocked the container and everyone kicked into gear. Whilst we unpacked the container, there was a productive buzz and everybody became acquainted. We then broke off into smaller groups to begin working on different phases of work. The team assigned to the construction of the mens pavilion began setting out excavation and removing an existing structure. The media team began making shelves in the shipping container, and another team began constructing the form work for various concrete slabs and seats around the site.

Lunch time then allowed for some great discussions with the local fellas, learning more about them and their place within the community; who was from what mob and where their country was.

As the first day came to an end, the local kids slowly made their way over to the site. We all shared our names and a few cold oranges from the eski, and Nicola took them through her moonwalk rendition on a piece of slippery dust covered form-ply. We ended the day playing and laughing together and were all really keen to return in the morning.