Seeking Refuge
86530 SPR 2017 Spatial Agency

This studio seeks to make a significant and positive impact on people’s lives by offering sensitively designed supportive spaces targeted at the needs of a specific and growing demographic. Thousands of people, including couples and families with children, sleep in their vehicles every night in Australia, and their numbers are growing. Between 2011 and 2016 there was a 100 per cent increase in car dwellers seeking help from specialist homelessness services, rising from 2722 to 5471 people, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data. This dramatic increase can be attributed to worsening housing affordability, the closure of caravan parks near urban centres and a rise in women fleeing domestic violence. Within this group, the fastest-growing demographic were women over the age of 55. Usually single and unemployed, having spent long stretches of their life out of the workforce raising children, they are without sufficient finances to afford a stable home. Using an existing light-industrial building in Chippendale as a platform, students will be tasked with creating a refuge, a protective space for women to feel safe and supported. We will develop the spatial program as a class during an investigative phase intended to map the extent of available support networks across Sydney and observe current best practice. In an effort to create the most appropriate and functional environment, there will be an emphasis on understanding and representing the core refuge model, such that if the spatial envelope were to change, the core is able to readily translate and adapt. Upon completion of this studio, students will have gained an acute awareness of the language of space and developed skills and processes that enable sophisticated and perceptive design responses.

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SYDNEY: Tents in Wentworth Park. Picture: James Croucher