The Pilbara Vernacular Handbook


The Pilbara region of Western Australia is experiencing a massive surge of growth demanding a longer-term view of Pilbara communities, their infrastructure and amenity. The Pilbara Vernacular Handbook is a 400-page volume responding to the need for a strategic re-imagining for future urban and suburban development. It is designed as an essential tool creating a common focus for people from industry, commerce, government and community who are instrumental in the ongoing development of the Pilbara.

The task of identifying a Pilbara vernacular is a unique and unprecedented challenge and provides the opportunity to capture and reflect the dynamic spirit of the place. Many Pilbara towns were established to provide short-term accommodation for mining companies and do not have the distinctive built form that defines a typical local design context.

The objectives of the Pilbara Vernacular Handbook are to:

  • encourage high quality buildings and public realm and enhance the interface between the two
  • provide a contemporary design response to the Pilbara context including logistic and economic considerations
  • evoke a sense of place which reflects the local landscape, environment, climate and culture.

The Handbook provides a springboard for ideas and encourages a deeper level of thinking about the design and construction that is appropriate to the place.

To achieve this, the contents are organized into the following:

  • Analysis
  • Opportunities and Constraints
  • Values
  • Principles
  • Design Strategies

Five core values were identified as essential design considerations:

  • Responding to climate
  • Incorporating the natural landscape
  • Building on the Pilbara character and identity
  • Enhancing livability
  • Mobilising for change

The Handbook begins with an overarching analysis and strategies for appropriate responses for the urban realm, housing and built form. Four towns were nominated and the same analysis and strategic principles were applied to each unearthing the particularities of place and providing strategies to specific conditions.

The Pilbara Vernacular Handbook is the first comprehensive and detailed review of existing built fabric of towns in the region. We have presented a case for high quality, regional and place specific design responses at a variety of scales. The document has been designed to be read by a broad range of users and is set out in an easy to understand format using colour coding to guide the user through the categories of reference.

We worked with engineers, planning consultants, retail and economic consultants, planning and land agencies to ensure that the work met the strategic goals of government whilst balancing practical, credible and viable design scenarios. We worked closely with local builders and developers to ensure the validity of our strategies in the marketplace and test the effectiveness of our communication.

The document has already become an invaluable source of information for government, council, developers and builders. There is opportunity to build the content with additional chapters on specific building and planning topics and we are currently working on multiple dwelling and medium density development in the Pilbara.

The true value of this document will be seen as the towns and cities develop and will be appreciated by generations to come.