The Northern Territory has its own unique style of architecture created to cope with  the hot tropical climate. Some of the most important examples of pre WWII N T architecture are the Burnett Houses.

Beni Burnett was born in Mongolia, raised in China and worked in Singapore, Japan and China. His Northern Territory buildings are influenced by the Colonial architecture of Malaysia and Singapore.

He employed a system of screened asbestos cement louvers to allow for cross ventilation, no matter which way the breeze was blowing. Open eaves, ventilated roof ridging and open topped internal walls provided easy evacuation of warm air. Steep pitched roofs and two story construction also aid in keeping the building cool.


“K Type” Burnett House – 1939


“E Type”  Burnett House – 1939


Parliament house in Darwin echoes the colonial windows and louvers of the traditional Burnett House


This is the toilet block at the old Fanny Bay Gaol  Darwin. From waist height, external walls are timber stud frame with fly wire mesh attached. The internal walls also stop at waist height. Great for ventilation, not so good for privacy. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may have had an influence on Burnett’s designs. I’d like to think so. The Burnett houses were originally designed for high ranking public servants. I’d like to think they lived in houses influenced by a prison toilet block.





Embroidery mesh was used to press geometric squares into the colonial windows. White Gouache was also used in the sketches.

burnett 2

burnett house

burnett 1



One of my favourite examples of NT architecture is the Glenn Murcutt “Bowali Visitors Centre” in Kakadu National Park. Built of  formed, tinted concrete, corrugated iron, steel and timber. Its colours and textures look to have come directly from the ground it sits on. The building feels big and open and natural, inspired by one of the rock art galleries in the Park




Information signs are made of 1/4″ steel plate, laser cut and left to rust. Here they are suspended by wire in front of an off the form concrete wall panel Tinted with natural ochre.

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