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Outpost 01: Museum of Extinction

Our greatest source of innovation has always been experimentation. It’s through experimenting with new materials, evolving technology, novel ideas and wide-ranging collaborations that elements of our most memorable and highly awarded projects have been conjured.   

As many an architect will tell you, one of the richest periods of experimentation is during their studies. A time of imagining ambitious and fantastical structures and cityscapes before the constraints of ‘real’ sites, ‘real’ clients or ‘real’ contexts (building guidelines, budgets, deadlines) come into play.

To marry these dual passions for experimentation and education, we led a teaching studio earlier this year titled Outpost 01 – Museum of Extinction. Run as part of the University of Melbourne’s Master of Architecture course, it provided the opportunity to connect to our next generation of architects. It also enabled us to open the doors of our practice to offer insight into our thinking and design process.

Outpost 01 is the first in a series of teaching studios Wardle will undertake in collaboration with universities across Australia. A place to test new ideas, we chose its name to evoke the feeling of occupying a frontier - of leaving an established base and surveying new territory. This resonates with our ongoing engagement with issues, people and places beyond our studios. Our work spans its own outposts: Bruny Island, Somewhere Other and many artist collaborations. While each endeavour began outside our day-to-day practice, they’ve individually become central to our identity.

Outposts are speculative by nature. In practice, they represent a desire to evolve cultural values and experiment with emerging forms of knowledge. They can be defined by a geographical location, a philosophical position, or a new medium of creative expression. By operating at a distance, an Outpost is a site to experiment with emerging ideas, identities, and modes of representation.

As a series of teaching studios, Outpost comprises many conversations that extend beyond the walls of our studios and continue in the lives of the students who embark on this journey with us.

The Brief

The idea for this studio came from the acknowledgement that now, more than ever, we need to act on the rapid decline of flora and fauna globally. The studio brief explored a hybrid building type that merged a contemporary museum with a seed bank storage facility. Important considerations were the pivotal role of a seed bank in preservation and a contemporary museum’s capacity to communicate urgent issues.

At present, buildings designed to withstand volatility are largely hidden from view. These storage facilities back up everything – our data, our art, our investments, and now, the natural world itself. In contrast, the best museums are highly visible, acting as sites for identifying critical issues and communicating their complexity via compelling curatorial techniques. By drawing these building types together, we create a cultural building that communicates its role in an open and engaging manner.

  • Wardle Studio Leaders Ariani Anwar & Nick Roberts
  • Wardle Studio Contributors John Wardle, Meaghan Dwyer, Stefan Mee, Andy Wong, Rick Jordan, Adrian Bonaventura & Alan Ting
  • External Studio Contributors Tim Entwisle & Emer Harrington (RBGV) John Noel & Richard Stokes (Arup Engineering)
  • Architecture Students Nan Li, Justeen Tsai, Arthur Wibisono, Yuqi Jiang, Jesslyn Humardani, Boyd HelliNan Li, Justeen Tsai, Arthur Wibisono, Yuqi Jiang, Jesslyn Humardani, Boyd Hellier Knox, Haolin Wang, Jingyi Zhang, Heymenn Leung, Qingchen (Steve) Meng, Cassandra Tom, Sifan Wu, Dongjie Qiu, Aydin Turhal, Biqin Li

The Process

The studio encouraged students to think beyond architecture by considering how the building they created might engage with its community. To stimulate and expand their design thinking, students undertook research activities and workshops with Wardle staff. Students shared their work with structural and ESD engineers throughout the semester to emulate the experience of working with a consultant team in architectural practice.

Along the way, emphasis was placed on the rewards of engaging with a broader network of contributors beyond architecture.

As the first Outpost, it’s been immensely rewarding to see the way students have embraced the conversational, exploratory atmosphere of the studio by designing both a convincing architectural proposal and a passionate argument for its existence. These projects extend the capacity of architectural drawing and model making to describe more than just a building. This attitude finds its way into practice as well: in order to imagine new forms of architecture, the conditions that make that architecture relevant need to be researched and advocated for. As the first of a series, Outpost 01: Museum of Extinction initiates an approach that is dedicated to highlighting architecture’s role in addressing the most pressing issues facing our world.


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