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Architectural design hits the target

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For Curtin postgraduate architecture student Claire Buscombe, creating an ecologically and economically sustainable design for WA’s first indoor archery facility is the aim of the game.

Through the Whiteman Park Redevelopment Project, Claire and other Curtin postgraduate architecture students were given the opportunity to take part in a design competition engineered by Jorge Ortega, Curtin co-tutor and senior design associate at Hassell, in collaboration with dual Olympian and President of Archery WA Deonne Bridger. It involved undertaking individual design projects based on a brief provided by real-world client, Whiteman Park, one of the largest metropolitan recreation and tourism reserves in the world*.

The project’s primary objective is to upgrade the existing facility to incorporate the first indoor archery space in Perth whilst minimising the environmental impact on the park, a ‘bush forever’ area that is home to many species of native flora and fauna, and positioned over Gnangara Water Mound.

It also aims to enhance the longevity of Whiteman Park to ensure it appeals to the next generation of visitors, as well as boost the economy of Altone, an area identified as being at a higher level of disadvantage than other areas within the City of Swan**.

Of the 28 designs submitted, Claire Buscombe’s was declared the winner due to its environmental focus as well as its emphasis on creating a space that encourages community engagement.

“My design was driven by my concept, ‘Anapanasati’, [mindfulness of breathing], its objective being to develop concentration and focus. I saw this as an opportunity to attract a wide and varied user group to the site,” says Buscombe.

With a number of elements to consider when creating their designs, including economic factors, land protections, permissions and subsequent design limitations, course coordinator Dr Chamila Subasinghe admits that students were presented with a real challenge.

“It’s not just about designing a sensible building. In this case, we needed to collaborate with multiple agencies because it’s an environmentally sensitive area,” he explains. “Socio-economic rejuvenation of [the] Whiteman Park area was also something that needed to be considered, and was very much a goal of the project.”

The competition ran for the duration of the university semester, with students presenting their concepts to the class, as well as to guest industry lecturers who were involved with the project, and provided constructive feedback and one-on-one guidance.

“We had a brief which was quite detailed, and each week we had to reach different milestones of the design process. Although the project was individual, the way our class runs is very collaborative and we get a lot of feedback from each other and our tutors,” Buscombe reveals.

“We had engineers, archers, other architects, a town planner. All these people would comment on our designs and help us along by critiquing our work.”

The competition featured two rounds, and if successful in the first, shortlisted students then presented their project in a ‘Shark Tank’ style setting to a jury made up of key stakeholders who thoroughly assessed the submissions, asking a series of questions to each applicant post-presentation.

“The second round was quite rigorous. We had the President of Archery WA and experts from a range of disciplines: mechanical engineering, building services, structural engineering, architecture and a representative from Whiteman Park,” explains Dr Subasinghe.

Although it was a design competition, he acknowledges that it extended beyond creating a great design, it was also about how the proposal was delivered to the panel of judges.

“I think that is one of the critical things in the practice of architecture, or for that matter, any business that has human-to-human contact and business relationships – you need to know how to make a compelling case,” he says.

“We are not just training architects; we are nurturing a culture that delivers a certain level of education to the clients. We do not just provide what clients ask us to provide, we educate them and we surpass their expectations.”

With Buscombe’s place secured as competition winner, the next stage of the project begins and she is part of every future step. Under the guidance of a Curtin architecture graduate, she is now taking part in the real-world process that extends outside the tutorial rooms and into the boardrooms of the lease holders of the site, Western Australian Shooting Association (WASA), Whiteman Park, and a range of local and state government departments who will provide sign-off on the design.

“It’s a great learning experience for the future, because it [deals] with all the different bodies you need to work with,” Buscombe says.

The indoor archery facility is among a number of Whiteman Park community spaces due for completion next year, and is set to host the WA Archery 2017 National Championships.


*Whiteman Park Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020

**Social Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) of Disadvantage assessment, City of Swan Altone Local Area Plan, 2015.

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