Two campsites along the Larapinta trail have been developed with World Expeditions to provide shelter and comfort to their trekking groups through a series of minimal impact structures. It is part of a strategy to broaden the profile of guests, whilst maintaining authenticity – you are still camping.
The campsite arrangements are influenced by the particularities of each site, but bound by the elemental issues of existence in such a remote environment. Each campsite comprises a shaded communal platform, an ablutions tent with two toilets, and two separate shower tents. Sleeping is in swags, either out in the open or sheltered within smaller off-the-shelf safari tents. Unoccupied throughout the hot summer, the camp is ‘packed down’ and remains as a series of enigmatic relics in the landscape, designed to withstand the toughest of desert conditions.
Quintessential to any campsite is the fire. The ‘Y’ shaped communal tent is designed to embrace the campfire. One arm houses the communal dining, the other a lounge, with a food preparation and serving area at the tail. Drawing upon our experience with the David Gulpilil House and Table Bed Tent projects, and indigenous humpies of Australia’s north-east, the tent is designed with two components – a raised platform to escape the dust and canopy roof for shelter. The platform is decked in hardwood – durable, comfortable and easy to clean. The canopy is large and low, stretching over relatively simple post supports, not unlike the Bedouin structures of the Arabian Desert. The Bedouin tent served as a useful model for how another culture dealt with occupation in similar climate. The stretch fabric, posts and guys are coloured orange like the dusty ground. The canopy provides protection from sun and protection from rain, and is adaptable to specific weather conditions. Its edges are generally low, allowing warmth to be retained from gas heaters on the coldest of nights, and can be lowered further on one side or another to protect against a prevailing wind.
Pre-fabrication was critical to building at a hot time of year in a remote location. The decking was brought in as panels, the furniture assembled from cut form-ply, with pre-fitted cushions and stainless steel benches. The toilet and shower platforms are perforated steel, left to weather. The canvas shelters are muted greens like the spinifex and mallee.
The sites are carefully managed. All water is imported and minimal water use encouraged. Toilet waste is treated on site via a composting system in the ground and shower waste is dispersed below ground level. Solar LEDs provide light to the communal tent and light up a path to the toilet. The built forms and infrastructure of the campsite support the minimal impact operation with this sublime landscape.
The project has been in gestation since 2005. The long consultation and design development has involved many site visits, as well as face-to-face meetings with World Expeditions and the Aboriginal traditional owners on site, to ensure that local community contribute to the plan and support the project.
Product Sheet by Rachel from Neeson Murcutt Architects