The Fish River Project was undertaken by staff and students from the University of South Australia for the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC). The project provides men’s and women’s accommodation at Fish River Station, which employs aboriginal rangers from the nearby Daly River community, managing cultural and natural heritage.
The project aimed to improve the living conditions of the rangers by upgrading accommodation to address the extreme climatic conditions of the Northern Territory using passive design strategies and identifying and responding to cultural protocols and preferences. A limited budget and remote project site posed a challenging design task for students who undertook prefabrication and final construction on site within a limited time frame, defined by the alignment of academic calendars and seasonal weather conditions.
UniSA Masters of Architecture students developed the design following a consultation and site visit in 2016. The Fish River project maximised the Design Construct program’s prefabrication capacity and the client’s hands-on contribution to deliver an economical solution to this remote site. This included large covered indoor and outdoor spaces, insect screening, improved privacy and passive design principles to avoid reliance on air conditioning systems. Prefabrication was undertaken over 6 months in the University's purpose-built fabrication facility and construction on site was achieved in just 12 days involving collaboration between UniSA Design Construct staff and students, selected trades and local rangers.
The Fish River project has raised living and working conditions for the rangers employed on Fish River station by providing accommodation which is climatically and culturally more appropriate for its place and users. Additionally, the accommodation provides an improved experience for short term visitors, which supports the aboriginal community in Daly River to visit Fish River and spend time on Country. This not only provides cultural value to the community, but supports efforts of the rangers and community members to manage the natural heritage of the local environment.
The Fish River Project exemplifies a viable cost effective alternative for remote tropical accommodation compared to the default air conditioned transportables which are dependent on costly stand-alone power systems and on-going maintenance. By providing large insulated and reflective steel roofing, robust floor to ceiling stainless steel insect screening, raised sleeping spaces and ceiling fans, the improved levels of thermal insulation, ventilation, and insect protection have significantly enhanced the personal comfort, amenity and privacy of the rangers. The Fish River project is significant, not only in it's practical and cultural value provided by the function it serves, but also as a hands-on learning experience for students from the Design Construct program at the University of South Australia. The project addressed a meaningful real-world design challenge, while providing students with practical, cultural and environmental experiences they would not have received in the classroom.