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Natural History House by Sacha Parkinson

The Natural History House project is an illustration school and natural history museum located on Ash Island, near Hexham.

The project stems from a passion for the natural environment, its current crisis and motivation for conservation and preservation. There has never been a more relevant time for recorders and interpreters of natural history, as their role is increasingly important in assisting us to experience and value the natural environment.

Ash Island, part of Kooragang Island, has undergone an amazing process of natural and human transformations; from mudflats the Aboriginals inhabited, to agricultural farms, to industrial coal loading, and is now one of the largest wetland rehabilitation sites. The collection of wildlife and habitat recordings completed by the Scott Sisters during the 1800’s, have proved invaluable for the restoration of the post-agricultural island.

A series of architectural interventions are strategically placed across Ash Island that respond to the subtle layers of the dynamic landscape. A number of threshold spaces are designed including the disconnection of the existing bridge and arrival via tides through the mangroves. The school and museum program is housed within a timber addition to the mesh boardwalk through the freshwater wetland. The littoral (coastal) rainforest contains a structure that supports the growth of an endangered vine, and remaining agricultural relics are adapted to house the heritage of the island.

Separating the program across the island enhances an experience of the multi-layered landscape by encouraging movement between the interventions. The individual’s journey across the island is designed to facilitate a deeper understanding and appreciation for the unique natural environment.