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25 September 2007

Silver Bullet

My wife and I came here about 11 years ago and we purchased an old industrial block with a heritage building that was unrecognised, unappreciated and in a fairly serious state of decline.

We planted local native plants. We used the landscape to harvest rainwater as much as we could and we built new structures using recycled materials. I guess we sort of created a little village with small economic components.

We wanted to create a retreat for locals, a place where people could come and relax for a couple of hours. Alice Springs isn't quite as laid back as people think. It's quite a tough environment to live in. It can be pretty stressful. We get emergency room workers, we get teachers, we get tradesmen - just about anybody.

We don't get many tourists because I think they just can't find the place. We're kind of hidden away in the industrial area.

From the street it doesn't read as an attraction. From the street it just looks like any neglected industrial block. I'd like to think a lot of good design working in harmony with the environment and heritage: science, design, the arts.

Someone this morning said to me, 'Did you have a mad dream and wake up in the morning and try and put it into practice?' Our choice of building materials reflects the resourcefulness of the people who were here in the post-war period who were building with very little financial capital but with a lot of ingenuity.

We've tried to use recycled materials in a way which is elegant and skilful. Each piece brings its own history, texture, patina, stories and in so doing every piece of the jigsaw enriches the site immeasurably.

Alice Springs, the built environment reflects isolation, a scarcity of materials, a great ingenuity, a making do. There's a certain poverty in the landscape.

If a town doesn't have these places for people to rest I think you're missing some of the glue that holds a healthy society together.