A cyclone-proof community centre for Atherton: tropical monumentality to enable resilience in Far North Queensland communities

Bischeri, Cecilia (2015). A cyclone-proof community centre for Atherton: tropical monumentality to enable resilience in Far North Queensland communities MPhil Thesis, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.839

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Author Bischeri, Cecilia
Thesis Title A cyclone-proof community centre for Atherton: tropical monumentality to enable resilience in Far North Queensland communities
School, Centre or Institute School of Architecture
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.839
Publication date 2015-09-14
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Sandra Kaji-O'Grady
Antony Moulis
Andrew Wilson
Total pages 168
Language eng
Subjects 120103 Architectural History and Theory
120101 Architectural Design
Formatted abstract
This research thesis aims to mobilise Queensland Government funding destined to the construction of public cyclone shelters to address the higher goal of enhancing community resilience of inland Far North Queensland (FNQ) communities threatened by cyclonic events.

The thesis comprises a written portion and a design proposal for a cyclone-proof community centre in Atherton, ninety kilometres south-west of Cairns, the main city of FNQ. The applied strategy seeks to surpass the limited and mono-functional government solution with a more versatile proposal. The design proposal aspires to activate community socialisation in three disparate conditions. The cyclone-proof community centre will operate: during the disaster as public cyclone shelter; after the disaster as a dedicated place where the community could find a familiar venue to perform social activities that rebound the severed social networks which are considered fundamental components to achieve community full recovery; and outside the disaster scenario as one of the civic-life pivots.

Criteria for success are identified through a comparative study of architectural exemplars for disaster relief. Extrapolating from good-practice precedents for post-disaster facilities and with the additional ambition of enhancing resilience in communities threatened by cyclonic events a hybrid civic incubator has been designed for local needs. Analysis of the deficiencies of the Queensland Government cyclone shelters has been used to further inform the proposal. The observed deficiencies are: limited doubling-up functionality of the cyclone shelter which typically serve as sports hall for local state schools; lack of integration with other community functions in enhancing township civic and social liveliness; and the absence of a clear architectural expression. The centrally-located civic incubator plans to bind together Atherton’s social life and to provide a public space in a rural township founded on secular planning principles. A pool-theatre; an outdoor volleyball court; a sports hall that doubles as a community cyclone shelter; rooms for the local non-profit and socially-oriented associations; and a partially roofed venue for the local market; have been considered strategic functions in stirring Atherton resilience.

Starting from structural constraints imposed by community-cyclone-shelter requirements, concrete is the main building material. However, taking an opposite approach to the mediocre anti-architectural solutions pursued by the government, the poetics of the béton-brut together with monumental compositional aspect have been embraced and advanced.

Local pre-existent conditions of an anthropic monumental landscape represented by open-air mines and vast fields; and a rich tradition of using monumental solidity to tackle the extreme manifestations of tropical weather have been investigated. Considerations regarding the suitability of the light-weight architecture of timber and tin versus the massiveness of more monumental forms in a tropical environment have been included. These two parallel traditions have been presented to contextualise and support the design solution. Taking into account the main characteristics of Atherton and the natural hazardous condition to which is exposed, the monumentality of the cyclone-proof community centre acquires a symbolic dimension for expressing the resilience of the community and its civic pride.

The architectural contribution to disaster situations has been generally limited to the provision of post-disaster housing projects. This practice does not guarantee the achievement of a successful community recovery. Thus, the thesis expands architectural research in the field of disaster studies to the creation of instruments that enable social and physical resilience before, during and after disaster events.
Keyword Community resilience
Cyclone shelter
Emergency architecture
Community resilience
Far North Queensland

Document type: Thesis
Collections: UQ Theses (RHD) - Official
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Wed, 09 Sep 2015, 17:01:33 EST by Cecilia Bischeri on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service