Munupi Art Centre Workshop

Kaunitz Yeung Architecture with Di Emme Creative Solutions

This art studio building on Melville Island is an essential tropical structure wrapped in the exquisite art of significant local artist Natalie Puantulura. Every element of the architecture is absolutely required and integral. Natural ventilation and lighting combine with significant prefabrication to support a highly sustainable outcome within the tight budget of $800,000. Sustainability and low maintenance were key requirements for the project, for which materials and equipment were only accessible by barge from Darwin.

The project’s primary purpose was to replace the previous derelict and dark workspace, which was utilised by some of the most accomplished artists in the country. The artists are mainly women and as such the space needed to be equally an artist’s workspace and a community space for their families, children and dogs that drift in and out through the day. In the absence of many other community facilities, the requirement was for a community node.

Explains Dr Lisa Slade, Assistant Director, Artistic Programs, Art Gallery of South Australia: “Commissioned by Munupi Arts and Craft and designed by Kaunitz Yeung Architecture, the new art studio at Pirlangimpi (Garden Point) on Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands 80 kilometres north of Darwin is at once a celebration and a commemoration. Created in consultation with the artist’s family and community, Puantulura’s distinctive Jilamara have been transposed onto a series of hand-drawn, laser-cut metal panels that wrap around the new art centre building. These dynamic perforated panels protect the body of the building just as Jilamara protects the body in Tiwi ceremony. Like skin, they also enable the body to breathe.”

The design was an iterative co-design process with the client and artists. The architect spent significant time sitting with the artists and learning about people, place and culture as they painted. One of these ladies was Natalie Puantulura. This gave a great insight into the process of making the art and the space required. But more importantly it expanded and clarified the brief to incorporate their hopes and aspirations of the future. Art, and being an artist, affects the self-esteem of individuals and communities. It is an opportunity for respect outside the mob.

Finishes: Colourbond. Fittings & Fixtures: Caroma.

Photography: Brett Boardman