Veteran Community Home Base
The Design Concept
Townsville’s WWII Heritage
Townsville is important to Australia and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) for many reasons, especially for its influence on the region to the north and east of Australia. Of particular significance is the access afforded to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the South-West Pacific. Since the mid-1800’s Townsville has been important as a defence location. Its importance was recognised particularly prominently during World War II.
Townsville was central to the Allied effort in World War II (WWII). Townsville served as a forward operating base for combat operations in the region and a mounting base for forward deployment to PNG and the South-West Pacific. Some of the most prominent WWII military impressions made on the city derive from the stationed US 5th Air Force and other infrastructure intended to defend the city and surrounding areas.
The Village in Oonoonba
The present-day site of The Oasis Townsville’s Veteran Community Home Base was a key location for Australia’s war effort in WWII. The most notable use of the Oonoonba site was by the 13th Australian Personnel Staging Camp (13 APSC). This was the location where all troops deploying to and returning from PNG during WWII were held temporarily pending on-forwarding. Towards the end of the war, the focus of 13 APSC turned specifically to supporting demobilisation and many service personnel were transitioned out of the ADF back into their pre-war civilian lives from this unit/area.
Prior to WWII, the site was used for various military purposes. One such purpose was for the assembly of horses from western Queensland prior to embarkation to the Middle East in WWI.
The most recent use for the site upon which The Oasis Townsville is now built was the Department of Primary Industries administrative building. The building had been vacant for many years. The Queensland Government re-zoned the area as a residential estate and the DPI building was designated for use by the veteran community in October 2017.
Significance to the Design
Some features of Townsville’s WWII experience are captured in the design of The Oasis Townsville. The US 5th Air Force was raised in Townsville and many of its service personnel spent much of their time in the P1 Huts, known colloquially as Pee-Wee Huts. There are artillery gun emplacements around the city and on Magnetic Island which provide vantage points to fire on enemies attacking from the sea or air. The three high features of the Townsville landscape are universally recognised by soldiers, sailors and aviators during the war for various reasons.
Guidance to Architects
Counterpoint Architecture (a Townsville based studio) is responsible for the design working with the founding directors of The Oasis Townsville Limited.
The DPI site had a large building dominating the block. That building was not conducive to community activity. The intent behind the design was to reflect an oasis with non-military-like lines. The design was to incorporate a concept for optimal use of space by veterans and their families and the communities and teams they generate. It was important to retain the existing palm trees for the 'oasis effect' and to bring back to life the magnificent raintrees which now line Staging Camp Avenue. Where possible, a subtle focus on the high features of Townsville (Castle Hill, Mount Stuart, and Mount Cook on Magnetic Island) was sought. Significant features of Townsville’s WWII experience should be incorporated where that supports the other requirements. Counterpoint Architecture took the brief and surpassed our expectations on what could be achieved.
The old administration building was cut in half. With a clever application of reuse and not waste, only that portion of the old building that was needed to give space to the site was demolished. The half that remained and was remodelled had several key modifications to reflect the brief. The building has numerous lines altered to remove the more formal straight lines. This was enhanced by large glass French doors which provide a strong visual connection through the raintrees to Mount Stuart, beneath which sits Lavarack Barracks, home to 5000 soldiers.
Magnetic Island Gun Emplacement
The round concrete structure at the heart of the courtyard area is an interpretation of a gun emplacement on Magnetic Island. This area at the Home Base serves as a central circulation node to connect all parts of the site and gives the feeling of a gathering/meeting point. This central feature has a solid cover for protection from the sun and is a pleasant place to sit outside, which is a common desire of many ex-ADF personnel.
The design includes huts for meetings and group activities. The P1 Huts (known during WWII as Pee-Wee huts) not only provide a link back to the US 5th Air Force but give the independent meeting space required to support community activity and gatherings of military associations and groups. By demolishing half of the DPI administration building, it also allowed for the huts to be placed such that the covered walkway between huts focuses attention on Castle Hill. This has the effect of reinforcing the significance of this iconic feature as both the heart of Townsville City and a significant place of observation and protection during wartime.
The Boulevard of Trees
The Raintrees along Staging Camp Avenue are over 100 years old. These trees represent the history of the site for its military use through time. They are also highly valued for their shade and calming effect on the entire Home Base. They form the base of a triangle that has buildings down either side from the café pointing to the north with the centre of the triangle forming the vitally important oasis.