Room to Breathe Engagement

Case Study


Northern Territory

How does the RtB work?

This project was based upon an iterative approach to design, working directly with tenants and occupiers of housing in remote aboriginal communities.

What was our approach to engaging with tenants?

We engaged directing with tenants, involving them in conversations around living patterns; household composition and stress points; what they did and didn’t like about their house, yard and community. Our role was to effectively manage the flow of information from the tenant without leading or guiding the conversation towards spatial outcomes.

An important part of this fieldwork was to observe household patterns and sketch what we saw. We took note of tenant modifications (such as the addition of tarps, infill walls, the adjustment of openings) and used these to seek further information on how the house is occupied.


Kieran Wong in conversation with tenants

We sketched whilst the discussions were taking place, allowing the tenant to actively participate in the design process. Together we tested ideas around space, access, paths of travel through the house and issues of privacy.

It was important to us that we understood the challenges around cultural practice and privacy and conducted several conversations with each tenant to ensure that we got this aspect of the project right.

Most importantly, we listened for the ‘why’. Why did people choose to sit on a certain side of their house, or in a certain view of another house? Which sides of their house got too hot in the wet season? We took copious notes while people spoke.

Tenant Sketch, Angurugu 2018

What was the outcome?

One of the most satisfying aspects of this project was the iterative manner in which it was undertaken. We held two and sometimes three independent sessions with tenants to get their feedback on our proposed design modifications to their house.

The work felt like a dialogue as we sought to understand the challenges faced by the tenant, and they sought to understand how we needed to respond to the existing structure, orientation and construction system of the house itself.

This work is part of an ongoing research project to gauge the efficacy of the design and tenancy interactions that is being conducted by the University of Queensland and Monash University. TF.A are part of the Research Team’s Advisory Group and were instrumental in the development of the Research Approach and in the procurement of research funding through the Northern Territory Government.