312_Dan Whelan: The Vault, Transient Miner Town

Dan Whelan from Australia, Melbourne — “Dan is a design Graduate of Architecture, living and working in Melbourne. He is passionate about sustainable design and community building, believing that quality design should not only respect the surrounding environment but should be ever forward looking in its approach while remaining timeless. He believes architecture should not only be ascetically appealing and functional, but like art, make you feel something. With a strong skill-base in architectural design, documentation and visualization, he creates unique designs challenging the status quo.”


Website: http://danwhelanarchitecture.com

University: RMIT Melbourne

Professor(s): Emma Jackson

Instagram Username: @danwhelanarchitecture


Project Name: The Vault - Transient Miner Town

The Recent Mining Boom & the culture it has given rise to has been the cause of a number of issues in the existing towns in the Pilbara between local communities and transient workers. The intention was not to fix the problems of this transient worker culture but was simply to build a place separate from the local towns that would suit this strange fringe culture better. The chosen site Cossack, is located in the Pilbara region on the north coastline of Western Australia. It was once the pearling heart of the region before resources were depleted and the workers moved out.


Today it is a ghost town with a handful of heritage listed buildings remaining, which are slowly deteriorating due to the constant exposure to the extreme weather conditions. Surrounding the site is an isolated, deformed wasteland. A place of constant flooding, burning overhead sun and cyclonic storm conditions reap havoc on Cossack both during the dry and the wet seasons year in, year out. The intention was to design a structure to combat these conditions, a structure which would instill a sense of refuge and defense from both the surrounding wasteland and the extreme weather conditions of the site. The circular geometric fortified wall becomes bastardized due to the site topography, with Tien Tsin lookout and the high tide zone aggressively creeping into the proposed circular boundary from both the west and east sides of the structure.


The wall provides shelter and housing within its structure while the inner courtyard space allows the opportunity for short term portable like architecture to be assembled freely. Centrally located are the existing heritage buildings along with a proposed domed structure for shared community use. The Vault is proposed as an alternative way to building in remote, isolated areas of the desert. This proposal goes against a strange trend of laying out the typical suburban model in what is an almost inhabitable wasteland.

The unpredictability of extreme weather conditions cannot be controlled, but the way architecture responds to these site specific conditions is controllable. The Vault is designed to promote human interaction and community spirit within, while protecting human life from the dangerous and uncontrollable conditions beyond its walls.