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Thursday, 10 March  2005  Public Shelter

Meet an architect who designs shelters for the homeless.

MICK BUNWORTH: Former policeman John Nicholas knows just what is meant by sleeping rough.

For six months he called Melbourne's parks and benches home after a personal crisis that cost him his career, his marriage and saw him simply give his superannuation away to strangers.

MICK BUNWORTH: The plight of people like John Nicholas caught the attention of Melbourne architect Sean Godsell while he was working in London.

SEAN GODSELL, ARCHITECT: I'd get to the Notting Hill tube station and have to wind my way around the homeless people on the steps of the tube station.

They'd been seeking refuge there to get away from the cold English winter and I found that affronting to have to do that and in a city as civilised as London.

MICK BUNWORTH: Sean Godsell's work has been recognised with national and international awards.

But his passion for design is matched by an equally fierce desire to improve the lives of the homeless and the dispossessed wherever they may be.

His park bench house and bus shelter house designs are simple innovations, seating for the public by day, shelter for the homeless by night.

SEAN GODSELL: I'm just an architect and that's a different world, but I'm learning that if you can effect policy change, then cities like Melbourne have enormous potential to be leaders in the world in terms of how we design our infrastructure and whether or not we can accommodate the displaced in the design of our infrastructure.

MICK BUNWORTH: But the peak body for Australian councils says its focus is on accommodating the homeless, not encouraging them to sleep in their parks.

JOHN NICHOLAS: I'd say come and try it yourself.

Come and try and sleep in the park yourself for one night and then use the shelter and see what the difference is.

MICK BUNWORTH: Sean Godsell's latest work - the Bus Shelter House - was today installed at the National Gallery of Victoria as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival's production, 'Shelter'.

Passers-by will get the opportunity to share Sean Godsell's vision for improving the lives of those on the fringe.

But they may also be struck by the irony that it appears to be destined to be yet another museum piece before being given the chance to do some good.

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English Bites - Public Shelter
story notes

was once; used to be
We use former to say that someone used to do something, such as a particular job, in the past.

Example: The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is doing a lecture tour.
Another form of this expression is ex-

Example: The ex-president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is doing a lecture tour.
Yet another way of saying this is erstwhile.

Example: Australia has a good relationship with its erstwhile enemy, Japan.

The past participle of the irregular verb mean.
more information: mean

The past tense of the irregular verb see.
more information: see

The past tense of the irregular verb catch.
more information: catch

Follow the link to hear another way of pronouncing the word spelled w-i-n-d.
more information: wind

Homeless people have nowhere to live.

A refuge is a safe place.

The past tense of the irregular verb find.
more information: find

Affronting means offensive or upsetting.

A civilised city is a place with a highly developed culture, a place that should treat all people fairly.


To be dispossessed means to be homeless. But it also means to have had your land, house or property taken away by someone else.

park bench
A park bench is a long seat for more than one person located in a park.

bus shelter
A bus shelter is a place to wait for buses. It often has a seat as well as a roof to protect people from the wind and rain.

Some bus shelters are more pleasant than others.

An innovation is a new idea.

peak body
most important organisation

To accommodate someone is to find them a place to live.

Follow the link to hear another way of pronouncing the word spelled l-i-v-e-s.
more information: lives

The past participle of the irregular verb strike.
more information: strike

The past participle of the irregular verb give.
more information: give
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