A few years back I was lucky enough to get out to the (semi) annual horse races at Ltyentye Apurte (also known as Santa Teresa), a small community east of Alice Springs.

You can see a selection of my photos from the day’s racing here.

Recently I was going through some old photo files and came across another set of shots I took on that fine—extremely dusty—day out bush. These photos are of a selection of informal—architects would call them vernacular—shade structures scattered around the fringes of the racecourse.

The best writing on Australian Aboriginal architecture—in whichever of its various forms—is by the Queensland architect and academic Paul Memmot. Memmot’s best known work is the magisterial Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia that was published in 2007 (an updated edition was published in 2022).

Most of the discussion of Aboriginal architecture is understandably centred on the development of culturally and socially appropriate housing_and of course the dire shortage of same.

These shade structures at Ltyentye Apurte however are informal and of a variety of shapes and sizes and incorporate a range of found and repurposed materials. They are not meant for more than occasional, mainly daytime, use.

Some structures are simple with a minimum of effort and material, others a ragtag collection of material, some half blown away by seaonal winds or blasted by sand and dust storms.

Regardless of apparent decay or damage all are readily amenable to quick repair that will restore them to their core functions of shade, shelter from the wind and a place for families to gather.