Coochie CODA: Michael Phillips

Every Friday afternoon the studio meets together for something called Coochie CODA. It’s become our moment in the week to have a drink, eat some chips and discuss a project in detail. Sometimes it’s a CODA project, sometimes it’s something from the outside world!

Below is a recap of last friday’s Coochie CODA event where we were visited by Michael Phillips.


Michael Phillips is a Curtin graduate who has a keen interest and passion for the design build culture, both at a national and international level. Michael was the recipient of the Peter Hunt Travelling Scholarship during his graduating year. Winning the award allowed him to venture to the United States and survey community build projects run through academic curricula throughout mainly the southern half of the country.

SA Shelter SA Shelter Internal

Upon return Michael became a tutor at the University of South Australia’s School of Art, Architecture and Design. There he was fortunate to be involved in the long running design build program where he was able to successfully complete a single men’s housing shelter for a remote indigenous community. This process not only allowed him to understand a version of a design build program, but also pursue potential areas in which programs such as those run at UniSA could be improved, both on a programmatic level but also a pragmatic level.general assembly

A brief collection of observations made during his Coochie CODA presentation:

Michael presented a lot of varying design build projects, at different scales and levels of complexity. What was interesting to note was the rural/remote nature of all of these projects and how that in turn affected the vernacular or stylistic outcome of each.

steel construcionIn some regard, projects need to be sited in a rural or remote setting to allow for an ease in and simplicity to overall building site access and development. With this other issues are raised regarding the nature of material able to be used and construction method employed.

Michael noted that a lot of the design build projects in Australia that he had been involved with were predominantly of steel extrusions to allow ease of construction. It seemed that a lot of the projects that were seen by Michael in America not only had a prairie style aesthetic, (á la FLW) but were also mainly of timber construction, generally with concrete foundations. Therefore it is notable that there seemed to be a subconscious contextual material palette employed based on regionalism and mild national identity as understood through the built environment.

prairie shelter



Design Build programs are not a new venture, nor are they rare in quantity. However what endures from Michael’s discussion and his research and practice is a need to ensure Design Build programs become prevalent once more, especially in WA. He argues for and will hopefully become a leading voice for the need to ensure these programs occur both through academia and within the professional realm.

Not only do they provide a needed service for communities, they also greatly benefit the students/professionals involved, allowing in some instances for a more personal and often eclectic design outcome.

crazy facade

There’s nothing wrong with getting to know what happens outside of the office every now and then.

Thanks Michael!