East Pilbara Arts Centre by Officer Woods Architects

The East Pilbara Arts Centre is a gallery and workspace for the Indigenous art collective Martumili Artists located in the small community of Newman in WA. 

The architects took the original brief and asked instead what the community actually needed, which wasn’t an architectural monument, but space to work that was protected from the harsh climatic conditions of the Pilbara desert. They designed a large second skin in the form of an industrial shed that tripled the area of the original brief.

In Andrew Lilleyman’s review of the East Pilbara Arts Centre on ArchitectureAU, he aptly notes… 

Aside from giving the occupants more, Officer Woods’ “conservatory” approach to the design has allowed the architects to challenge traditional ideas about the regional art gallery, while tailoring it to its unique user group and difficult environment.

Is this project the new rulebook for regional art galleries? As not only a space to display art and a focal point of the town, but equally a place for art to be produced and for education around craft. An architectural response deeply responsive to site and community. 

This project is an inspiring example of architects taking it upon themselves to do more, without the inflated price tag. It reiterates the importance of not allowing the famous architect's ego to get in the way of designing an appropriate, cost-effective, sustainable, and most importantly – useful building. 

Can we begin to look at project briefs as moving parts in the design process, rather than static instructions?