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Bushfire Refuge Centres and Home Design Ideas: Julie Firkin Architect Part 2 - Episode 09 (SEASON 12 - REBUILD + BUILD BETTER)

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Rebuild + Build Better | Podcast Season 12 | Undercover Architect

This season will help you learn how to rebuild after bushfires, and build better homes wherever you are located (and what every type of build or renov 
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Hello! This episode is Part 2 of my conversation with architect, Julie Firkin.

In this episode, we’re talking about Bushfire Community Centres, working with architects in the recovery efforts, and what it means to help someone after such a traumatic event.

If you haven’t listened to Part 1 of my conversation with Julie Firkin where we discussed the Bushfire Homes Scheme, pause this podcast, and head back do that now. We’ll be here when you get back. 

Otherwise, let’s dive into Part 2 now.


For over 10 years, Julie Firkin Architects has been bringing creativity and problem-solving prowess to projects big and small in and around Melbourne. An award-winning firm, headed up by architect Julie Firkin, they pride themselves on a personal and people-focused approach to architecture. Julie has a hands-on approach to all projects and designs by visualising herself in the space which helps to create homes that are a joy to live in and spaces that are both practical and beautiful.

In the article from MARK Magazine I mentioned in our previous episode, in Julie’s interview with Marg Hearn, Julie said this:

“I’m always interested in innovation and in new solutions, as opposed to architects who find a groove and do what they do well all of the time. It was obvious from media reports that people in bushfire-affected areas had a lack of community refuges to go to. In speaking to the CSIRO, I discovered that providing official community refuges is a contentious undertaking, because authorities generally encourage people in high-risk areas to evacuate, and with a refuge to go to, they might decide to stay. Nevertheless, new codes and standards for community bushfire refuges are being developed. 

Following the fires, some 52 locations were identified by the state premier and the chief officer of the CFA [Country Fire Authority] as being at the highest risk for bushfire. These locations became candidates for the development of New Township Protection Plans. In setting up the design studio, I selected Forrest, a beautiful hamlet in the Otway hinterlands, as the working site. Each student was asked to design a unique concept that would serve as a community refuge during fire season and a public amenity at other times. They explored the broadest possible variety of building types – town halls, schools, visitors centres – and, as part of the process, sat in on a town meeting and sought input from a local council. Should the opportunity arise for that township to gain a refuge, both council and community will have access to 15 design concepts as a source of inspiration for further discussion.” 

I wanted to hear more about how Julie had worked with students in exploring what Bushfire Community Centres could offer as a strategy for building more resilient and defendable communities in the event of a bushfire. 

And I was also super keen, given Julie’s experience in New York after 9/11 and in the 2009 Black Saturday fires recovery, to hear her views on how she saw architects could work with people recovering from such a traumatic event. 

And remember too, you can grab a full transcript of this episode, plus get all the links I mention by heading to the show notes.

So, let’s hear more from Julie now.

Be sure to subscribe to this season, and also head to Undercover Architect’s YouTube Channel >>> for video interviews. All interview transcripts are available at



For resources mentioned, and a full transcript of this episode, head to >>>

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