The Shack’s Ghost by Jane Suckling from Curtin University
The Wedge shack settlement is a small community of approximately 150 shacks on the Lancelin Coast of Western Australia. It is a tight-knit community, mostly consisting of crayfishermen and holidaymakers, but also permanent residents that has been inhabiting the area since the first shack was built there in the late 1930s. It is an isolated community that thrived for many years without much contact with governmental bodies, however their position on Crown Land, along with many other settlements, has resulted in the uncertainty of their future (Godden Mackay Logan 2012). This research project looks to convey the shack in a new built work, as a portrayal of the shack’s experiential qualities of providing feelings of escape and refuge, exposure and security, and impermanence.
The Wedge beach shack is a Western Australian vernacular, which evokes unique experiences through its interior environment, subsequently enhancing the feeling of departure from the urban environment. During research of this typology the discovery was made that the dwellings foster a deepened relationship between the inhabitant and the surrounding landscape; the shack therefore acting as an intermediary.
Progressing from volume one, volume two looks at portraying aspects of the shack experience in the design of a shared public space. The new ‘shack’ will be a coastal pavilion, or shelter, that provides an escape where people will be able to reconnect through three different spaces. These spaces include a place of rest, which will be a place to unwind, pause or bask in the sun – a place to reconnect with the landscape – which is articulated through the communal hammock and veranda area. The place of reflection is a space to gain perspective in isolation – allowing reconnection to the self – expressed through a permeable space designed for one or two, where one can experience the landscape in a secluded environment. Finally the place to gather is a meeting place – a place to reconnect with each other – which is manifested in the centric space which provides seating around a fire pit and a bar facing where the sun sets.
These spaces play on the shack’s role as a transitory space, between the world and the person. Heightening the experience of the often-harsh external environment can enhance the feeling of escapism from an urban location and provide a place that releases the trappings of those surroundings. Sven Ehmann communicates this idea in Rock the Shack,
“By crafting residences that distill one’s relationship to the environment, the remote refuge provokes the imagination and reawakens a sense of wonder in its occupants.” (Ehmann 2013, 7).
The new design is a gesture of the Wedge beach shack, drawing from the experiences and physical properties of the shack as well as the way that the occupants use it and the way this changes throughout the course of the year. The shacks are increasingly at the risk of being removed due to their location, and despite their historical value, the shack as we know them could eventually disappear. The decline of this typology, which has been integral to the experience of the everyday in places such as Wedge, brings into question; what will the shack leave behind? This pavilion provides the opportunity to convey some of the encounters that the shack creates, without it being a contrived replica of one. This design acts as the shack’s ghost, a place to escape the everyday and experience a slower, stripped back lifestyle where one can absorb the pleasures of being in isolation with the natural environment – a lifestyle that has been enjoyed by the occupants of Wedge for over 50 years.
Ehmann, S., S. Borges, and R. Klanten. 2013. Rock the Shack: The Architecture of Cabins, Cocoons and Hide-Outs: Die Gestalten Verlag.
Godden Mackay Logan Pty Ltd. 2012. Wedge and Grey Shack Settlements: Cultural Heritage Assessment.
Seamon, David, and Robert Mugerauer. 1985. Dwelling, Place and Environment: Towards a phenomenology of person and world. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.