Making Room and Room to Breathe

In 2017 the Northern Territory Government committed $1.1billion over 10 years to improve remote housing. $200m of this funding is allocated to the Room to Breathe project - an initiative where houses in remote communities are updated to provide better places to live. Rooms of an existing house that don’t work well might be removed, new rooms might then be added.

How are these decisions made?


Houses in remote communities might share similar problems, but each and every one of those house’s needs to be treated as its own particular situation.  At the beginning of a Room to Breathe project, there needs to be a conversation about how changes to the house will address those particular situations.

Most obviously, the people living in the house are best placed to understand how the house needs to change.

How do they become involved in the design of changes to the house?

How do we explain to someone else how a house we live in needs to change?

We can walk through it together, talking about what needs to happen, but at some stage the changes to a house need to be designed - made into a drawing so they can be built.  This is an obvious part of the Room to Breathe project, but making sure that what is actually drawn is the best way to change the house, is essential.


Those first few conversations are so important.

The better that someone like an architect understands how a house needs to change, the better those changes will be.  While the architect usually records the conversation as sketches and notes, a model - whose parts can be moved around on a table - is a more likely way to engage the design of a house as part of the conversation.


The conversations we have about the changes to a house might be modeled.

Rooms in a house separate spaces from each other, and in doing so, lives from each other.  These relationships can be drawn as a sketch, but moving parts of a model around, as if they were rooms in a house, is a more intuitive way of discussing them.  Architects and builders might talk to each other through drawings, but in the first conversations of a Room to Breathe project, the people who live in the house can rarely participate in their making.

The rooms of a house are both indoors and outdoors.

Conversations about the existing house are the first to be modeled.  The rooms of the house need to be mapped to show how they relate to each other, and how they relate to the outside.  The edges of rooms in the model can begin to show these relationships.  Some rooms will need to remain separate from each other, while others will freely open on to each other.  All rooms will also want different relationships with the outside; some will want to remain private and enclosed; others will be like outdoor rooms, barely enclosed at all.


Rooms in a house are usually defined by walls, doors and windows, but the boundary of a room can also be defined by less obvious forms of enclosure - circulation paths within a house, the lines of sight between rooms, breeze-ways, and privacy from the street, for instance, often create important forms of boundary that aren’t always defined by walls.

The edges of rooms within the model can also represent these more complex types of boundaries.


Between houses, the size and shape of bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry’s are often similar to each other.  Rooms in the model might be able to represent these relative sizes reasonably accurately.  However, the size and shape of indoor and outdoor living spaces (including the kitchen and cooking areas), often vary between houses.  For this reason, the living spaces of a house might be the unfilled space of the model, its ground, surrounded by other rooms.  Understanding where thresholds need to exist between rooms is an important part of those first conversations - it is an architecture of listening.

The Making Room model is a diagram of the house - a conversation.

The Making Room models aren’t meant to represent the true shape of a house, like a scaled drawing might.  The models are just the beginning of understanding how a house needs to change. The models are a conversation piece.

All house’s, and the changes to them, will be different to each other in important ways. So the models need to be flexible enough to be useful between different houses, while still making sense as the arrangement of rooms in any given house.  For this reason, the parts of the model have different sizes and markings to help distinguish different rooms from each other.  How they might be used in a conversation remains open however.


The Making Room models are to help show, on a table and during a conversation, what people are thinking and saying about how a house needs to change.


Supported by:

making  room

Exhibition Dates


Tuesday, 10th July 2018 to Saturday, 14th July 2018

11:30am - 4:30pm

@ Darwin Student Hub - CDU

Shop 6, Vic Complex, 27 Smith Street Mall


Alice Springs

Tuesday, 24th July 2018 to       Friday, 27th July 2018

11:00am - 4:00pm

@ 25 Todd Street, Alice Springs



Wednesday, 17th October 2018 to Sunday, 4th November 2018

10:00am - 5:00pm

@ Watt Space, Auckland Street, Newcastle


Dr Chris Tucker

School of Architecture and Built Environment

University of Newcastle NSW 2308


Making Room Credits

Chris Tucker

Jazmin Gavin

Lily Freeman

Tim Burke