Decoding Onslow

Last week Kieran, Sarah, Michelle and David went to Onslow as a part of CODA’s Wheatstone Residential Housing project for Chevron Australia. The trip to the sunny North, a welcome change to Perth’s wintery storms, gave us an opportunity to examine the town of Onslow in minute detail to find out what it was that made Onslow Onslow. Specifically, we documented a large portion of the existing housing stock to decode the most interesting examples of houses in Onslow and find out the way that the town’s residents have adapted these dwellings over the past hundred years to provide some comfort in what is generally considered to be an extremely harsh environment.

In undertaking the “houses survey” many fascinating and unique adaptations to some of the houses became evident through Onslow residents’ reactions to extreme heat, torrential rain and the regularly occurring cyclones that the Pilbara is renowned for. Shutters and debris screens were a common feature and some of the original houses of pearl divers and fishermen had adapted to the conditions in a ways that are inspirational in their simplicity and effectiveness. Simple, efficient plan forms with partially or fully enclosed verandahs were common in these older dwellings. The roofs on houses are typically large, shady structures that provide the houses with the necessary protection and add to the casual essence of what was once a sleepy seaside town.

Older houses used shutters used to control ventilation as well as provide protection. These shutters open into a semi-enclosed “verandah”.

Older houses simple response to site: controlled ventilation, cyclone protection and a roof capable of shedding large quantities of water.

The town visit provided us with an insight into the way that the people of Onslow have lived throughout its history as well as an opportunity to really consider what a new interpretation of the “Onslow House” can be. It also presented the perfect opportunity to practice our pool technique in advance of CODA’s inaugural Pool Comp. Turns out, Sarah’s a bit more of a shark than previously thought: