Beautifully functioning architecture for a simple life
Bihar (Messenger) House
Finding a sites soul is often the first step we take when working on a project. With this site in Barwon Downs, we were suprised to find out about the sad history or the area, but also the local significance in sustaining not only the Clans of the local Aboriginal tribe, but also tribes from far away, who came to trade the local delicacy, eels.
The Gadubanud tribe inhabited the Otway Peninsular, pre-white invasion, with 5 separate clans: 3 living at Cape Otway; 1 at Moonlight Head; and 1, the ‘Yan Yan Gurt’ Clan on the inland side of the Otway Range, on the head of the East Branch of the Barwon River, which is just down the hill to the west of the site.
Very little is known about the Gadubanud tribe, apart from their ultimate demise through 2 massacres around Aire River and Blanket Bay, but they sustained themselves through a circuit which involved fishing and hunting on the Coastal side during warmer months and then migrating over the Otways in Autumn to the eel rich waters of the upper Barwon as well as the forest/plane interface where hunting would have been productive.
This migration was through a break in the generally chaotic hills and valley complexes of the Otways called the Elliot Shear Zone. This is a series of 3 very linear, North South running valleys, which is in complete contrast to the landscape on either side and runs roughly from Skenes Creek to the ride line, at which point, they headed toward Mt Sabine and down into the valley.
This path and another one from Moonlight Head up through Lavers Hill were thoroughly managed by the Gadubanud through burning off. This became evident when these paths were overtaken by the forest only 1-2 years after the tribe had been ‘removed’ from the area.
It is believed that the Yan Yan Gurt Clan were those that hosted William Buckley and his “mob” for a massive corroboree and eel trade. The Clan “Bihar”, or messengerapproached Buckley’s mob at Lake Modewarre and invited them to trade eels with his tribe. He had 14 red clay rings painted around his arm which indicated the number of days it would take to get back to his tribe.
When they arrived, there was 80 people there and after they had traded their fish which they had carried in roo skins and native tubers for eels, which was considered a delicacy, a corroboree got into full swing. It got a bit wild and one of Buckley’s mob slept with one of the Yan Yan Gurt Tribeswoman, who ended up getting speared through the leg.
From these stories, it became apparent that this site and the Barwon Downs-Forrest area were an important place of meeting, trade and a destination to shelter on the inland side of the Otways from the cold windy winter storms and eat eels, which the swampy section of the Barwon River, down by the Barwon Downs bridge would have been full of.
It’s also interesting that we often migrated along this route to get to our delicacy! The waves around this part of the world.
As the Yan Yan Gurt lived by the natural cycles of the sun and season, I was interested in using the Solar Rose for the area to generate a plan
Within these diagrams, it shows where the sun travels overhead all rear round to the hour of each day and gives the angles which I use to calculate eave depths for optimal shading.
My tracing above shows the purple area which is the period it believed the Yan Yan Gurt or the other Clans migrated across the Otways to Barwon Downs. This would have depended on the weather and fishing for that particular, but from start of Autumn to the Equinox is what I’ve used to mark this migration
From here, I started to trace over the solar rose with your original plan in mind and thought the left to right sequence of the rose could become a timeline for the history of the site:
- The dawn/east wing is symbolic of the Yan Yan Gurt
- The fire place is when they came into contact with white people
- The centre living is the meeting place/corrobboree area
- With the strong north south axis picking up on their migration route
- West wing, afternoon into dusk and night, represents Europeanisation
So with the detailing of the Yan Yan Gurt wing, I wanted it to be mysterious and unknown, look apart of the forest, or the woven eel traps so it disappears into the surrounding bush, but with the BAL rating, this would be hard. That’s when I thought, “Just make it a mirror” to reflect the bush and make it disappear! Ideally, would love this to be a seamless glass curtain wall system … but this can be something else. This is floating up off the ground through a slight cantilever.
The West wing I was thinking of Blue Stone (tiled… quite affordable) façade, referecing the Church at Birregurra. This wing sits really heavy onto the ground and is an analogy to the really strict, confined western culture that came into the area and that the Yan Yan Gurt would have had to confirm to.
Within the structure, there is 4 red-stained timber portal frames, which reference the Bihar’s arm rings and represents the 4 generations of Yttrup’s within Australa.