Kaunitz Yeung Architecture’s project ‘PAMS Healthcare Hub Newman’ is the first primary healthcare facility of any type to be constructed in Newman by the husband and wife team of David Kaunitz and Ka Wai Yeung. The project is one of the shortlisted finalists at the World Architecture Festival Award 2021 in the ‘Health – Completed Buildings’ category.
The ‘PAMS – Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service’ project provides a state-of-the-art facility. It is deeply rooted in place and imbued with humanity that engenders community ownership. This is central to physically representing the ethos of PAMS and increasing presentation rates. The project has placed wellness at the centre of community in achieving this to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.
For the very first time, Aboriginal people will have access in Newman to community-controlled and culturally appropriate health services. The building incorporates the client PAMS – ‘Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service’ head office, which services the remote communities of Kunawaraji, Punmu, Parnngurr and Jigalong up to 800km from Newman.
David Kaunitz explains, “The brief of the project required a best practice regional primary health care facility to be the physical embodiment of the client ethos, placing wellness at the centre of community. Community-focused, connected to country, incorporating culture and providing high standard care. It also incorporates a primary health clinic – PAMS head office and four chair hemodialysis. The clinic includes general practice, child / maternal health, dental, treatment and allied health facilities for visiting clinicians from Perth. A key aim was to minimize the large cost and negative mental health impacts of Martu and Niaboli people leaving country and family for treatment in Perth.”
“The architectural response is imbued with country, cultural and people for the objective of placing wellness at the centre of community and physically representing PAMS ethos. This was underpinned by the co-design process that was an extension of the extensive co-design process that we led during the Punmu & Parnngurr Clinics completed in 2018,” elaborates Ka Wai Yueng.
“The courtyard forms the fulcrum of the building. Integral to the ethos of PAMS, it divides the building between the health clinic and the administration, whilst enabling a visual connection and the opportunity for interaction between management and the community. Along its other axis, it enables entry from the carpark and the new public park. The landscaping from the public park flows into the courtyard drawing people with it. On its other edge, the roof bulbs out to form a discrete porte-cochere to facilitate vehicular access including by PAMS community transport.” elucidates David.
The courtyard forms the central heart of the building. It is the main public entry, the outdoor waiting room and a community space for PAMS and community events. The roof from both wings fall towards the courtyard, which is timber-decked in Australian Hardwoods to minimize any heat sink effect and be comfortable even under bare feet. Downpipes are replaced with spouts that guide the water into the central swale planted with mature Eucalyptus Vitrix trees mimicking the dry riverbeds so characteristic of Martu and Niaboli country. In the rare rain events of the year the courtyard is briefly transformed just as the surrounding country is.
Ka Wai Yueng informs, “Rammed earth is an ancient building method that was used in much of the world. It is best known from places such as Mali and Yemen. Earth is the original building material, abundant, free and sustainable. The earth used for the project came completely from the site, reducing the embodied energy of the building, which would have otherwise been clad in manufactured materials transported from Perth 1,400km away or concrete.”
“The design approach was underpinned by the co-design process. This facilitated iterative consultation and a genuine co-design process with the community and specific user groups. Importantly, it enabled impromptu ‘yarning’, under a tree, at the petrol pump or on the way to the shop. This enabled all voices to be heard from a nomadic culture that is not always comfortable speaking within the mob. The result is a fine tuning of the architecture that resonates with community, enriching the architecture by making it subtly more appropriate to people, place and culture,” adds the architect.
Ka Wai Yueng infoms, “The courtyard forms the fulcrum of the building. It divides the building between the health clinic and the administration whilst enabling a visual connection and the opportunity for interaction between management and the community. Rammed earth was from the site avoiding transporting materials 1,400km from Perth. Above all, the incorporation of country in the building creates an intuitive connection with local people.”
“The value of integrating art and culture into the project comes from the process, as it does the outcome. The incorporated artwork is from 19 artists representing the 5 communities and the building services was selected by the communities. With this, the architecture plays an important role in uniting the communities around the building and creating relevance for each of them,” explains David.
He concludes, “The landscaping is integral in contextualizing and connecting the building the country. Over 2,000 local endemic plants were used to create low maintenance, robust and relevant landscaping. Most importantly is the new unfenced public park that has been formed in front of the building enabling outdoor waiting and for the first time a public park has been created in Newman under the ownership of an Aboriginal organization. In addition to the use of rammed earth, other materials and landscaping the building includes 150kW rooftop photovoltaic array, which will provide 100% of the buildings electricity when the sun is shining and more than 80% of all power.”
Image Courtesy: David Kuanitz Architects
Photographer: Robert Frith Acorn