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On the edge of Tjupany and Watjarri lands, Meekatharra sits on an ephemeral creek bed, Luke’s Creek that is the catalyst for the town plan. Located in the gold rich corridor that saw so many people flock to this area around 1900, Meekatharra is still a gold mining town. Not as much in practice but in the structure of the planning, housing and industries. The Great Northern highway follows a gold rich vein through the country side and brought so much of the early development to the area. The town still sits along the transport route, where it is not uncommon to have ‘oversize’ and convoys of 4 dog semi-trailers trundling through the main street. Our exhibition beside a food van looked at scales of inhabitation.
Inhabitation varies in scale and permanence, all are a part of the built environment and of our broader footprint. Does the perceived direction of a place dictate the architecture?
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Exploring types of dwellings, our footprint and different ways of thinking about living. CLICK ON THE IMAGE to see the full Meekatharra Poster
• Traditional Owners = Yamatji Wajarri people
• Murchison Biogeographic Region
• Mean annual temps; H-29.2 : L-15.1
• Mean annual rainfall; 231mm
• Population 708
• Elevation 517m
• Meekatharra Is known to be an indigenous word for ‘place of little water’
• Meekatharra is the supply and administrative centre for the surrounding area of the rangelands and is the ex-railhead, at the end of the Canning Stock Route
• Some mines reputedly make $3.6 million a day (this should be verified by a sober source)
• Meekatharra boasts a community organised and run recycling centre; ‘Meeka goes green’
Meekatharra became a town on the back of mining. The legacy of the early prospectors litters the landscape, oil tins, cans and bottles are common collectors items by locals and tourists alike.
A preserved snake, low humidity and high heat
Packed inside the green mango that is a bush banana are thousands of these lightweight spores. They look like optic fiber cables but once released from the fruit puff up and float away on the breeze.
Otherwise known as the tip. It is open access and means a whole bunch of what would be landfill gets re-used. We grabbed some cardboard for the model we made.
Some local legends have banded together and started their own recycling program called “Meeka Goes Green”. They rely on volunteers so if you’re around on a saturday 9-11 head on down!
We would study buildings closely to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can see efflorescence in the bricks here, caused often by the bricks soaking up groundwater and a salty crust appearing on the outside of the brickwork. This tells us that if a building is to use bricks you have to consider how to avoid this or use a different material.
We thought we must have stumbled into inner-city Melbourne when we saw a food van. A radical change from the normal shop bound cafe of most country towns. This is a result of owners of the cafe not feeling as though council would come to the table and help to revitalise existing unused shops in the town. They are even open late into the night later in the week. Bloody brilliant.
There is a lookout just on the edge of town, perched atop the remnants of an old mine site. You can see the old pit on the right hand side.
Designed for the hot weather, anecdotally it works pretty well. Heat is the big concern, raised off the ground to get air movement all around the building with verandah’s either side to shade walls and screening to the west to block low afternoon sun. All classrooms have cross ventilation, although this has also allowed routes of egress for small nimble children but not as much for bigger, slower teachers.
Big open space out of the sun is crucial in Meeka heat
Dotted throughout the landscape is the memory of mine sites. Here is an open cut mine, like many in the area they collect water and there is one that is known as the local swimming hole.
We stayed at Anna’s place in Meeatharra an amazing old building that Anna and her partner Gaz have back together with love and attention. Anna runs the shop “Made in Meeka” which sells wonderful local souvenirs all with a generous dose of humour. She also runs a local newsletter called “The Howler” which we think is absolutely brilliant and hilarious! We are even featured in one edition! Thanks for everything Anna.
Anna showed us around her old camp that she used to live in just outside the town. A wonderful rambling camp that even had a lookout for star gazing.
You can tell the importance of this space to the community by the quality of the GRASS. Not the easiest thing to grow in hot dry conditions, it takes a huge amount of maintenance to keep it alive.
Owen’s parents Wayne and Jenny visited whilst we were in Meekatharra and were promptly put to work making a scale model of a mine site. Thanks both!
We presented our work to the Meekatharra school and after discussing thermal mass and different construction materials we asked if the kids would prefer a brick house or a tent…one student cried out “TENT”. When the teacher prodded, “Wouldn’t you want a brick house so you don’t get too hot?” the student nonchalantly replied “nah, you just camp near a creek”….smart kid.
Pinned to the side of the food van we strategically set up for the lunch rush to capture as many people as possible. Thanks to the amazing locals who were our advocates on the day, pulling people in and talking them through the exhibition.
We made a series of scale models to show the difference in footprint of our impact on the land, we compared this to a scale model of a mine site.
We were asked to speak at the national student architecture conference whilst we were away, of course we couldn’t be there so we made a video to send through. We wanted to test it to make sure the sound and quality was OK, so with help from the local council we commandeered the unused outdoor cinema and had a world premiere with a bunch of locals. We finished of the night with a good dose of wine and the rocky-horror picture show! What a night.
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Whilst gazing into the abyss, a ute pulled up and the man driving asked us to “kindly piss-off”. Not really sure what to make of the mixed messages we asked him about the site and the area and he was very knowledgeable.
Cue was once called “The Queen of the Murchison” for the stately buildings that dot it’s main street. It’s main trade now seems to be tourism and trucks. Beautiful old buildings still dot the main street reminding us of a time of localised mining was the major industry.
Moved from an old mine site to the Cue caravan park, you can now stay in these gorgeous old buildings.
Once a thriving town that boasted, the biggest bar in the southern hemisphere (unverified) it is now a ghost town. The town itself only lasted for 19 years before the mine closed down and the site was abandoned.
They only had one lip-balm at the servo. Owen was pretty happy.
It was incredibly hot on our ride west, some days getting up to 47 degrees Celsius. Rationing water became torturous, when you permitted yourself a drink the water was warm, barely quenching your thirst. Finding this windmill with cool water was delightful and restored spirits and eased the crazy inducing effects of heat.
There are 5 tracks in this image. Dog/Dingo, Camel, Goanna/Bungarra, Camel, Car and Human. We counted over 350 fresh animal tracks on this path, making us keenly aware of the remoteness of the area. We followed the camel tracks for a couple of days before coming up to the Cameleers late one afternoon. The had walked from the east coast and were heading to Hamlin Pool. We had talked about doing this trip with camels before starting and after seeing the amount of gear they had we were glad we were on bikes. Stripped back, efficient and versatile.
After a blistering 47 degree day clothes seem like an unnecessary hindrance. Pretty sweet tan though.