Principle Architect - Sharyn Kerrigan

The Noosa Independent
DEC 3, 2012

by Wendy O'Hanlon

PEREGIAN Beach architect Sharyn Kerrigan, of Beach House Architecture, pictured above in the Peregian Village Square which she helped to redesign, literally drove around the entire Australian coastline before choosing Peregian Beach as the place in which to continue her career and become active in the local community.

Originally from Melbourne, Ms Kerrigan said it was as a 17-year-old that she became passionate about Australian architecture, particularly beach house architecture and coastal and urban design, after reading a book by the acclaimed late Australian architect Robin Boyd.

The book was The Australian Ugliness published in 1960 which investigated the Australian aesthetic in regard to architecture and the suburbs. Boyd proposed that education in design can be a means to resolve the ugliness he observed. After the book’s first publication, Boyd was criticised for being unpatriotic by the Australian mainstream press. But the book became an influential bestseller, opening up the debate about design, architecture and urban planning. Boyd, of the iconic Australian family of artists, was a much-acclaimed and influential Australian architect.

So it was as a 17-year-old that Ms Kerrigan began her architectural journey which 10 years ago led her to Peregian Beach.

“I saw the Australian ugliness of coastal towns as I travelled around Australia. You know, the built environment intruding on the beachscape, rows of shops like Red Rooster and McDonalds obliterating the true character of the iconic coastal beach-town retail strip.

“Here in Peregian, you can’t see any buildings from the beach and we have this lovely village square with a common green lawn area. There is a real connectedness within this community.

“When I came here I started working for architects Richard and Jane Foster and from my desk I could look out the window over the village square and I’d watch the children play on the old stage – they didn’t need anything – just their imagination. At that time there was a design competition to revitalise the village square with an Activity Platform and new street furniture.

Sharyn Kerrigan’s design was selected for the new central area and she designed a wooden stage, structure similar to the old stage, that sits amongst the trees and pretends to be a jetty to the old pool from the past. The picnic tables designed and created by Richard Newport are very popular with family and friends on a summer’s night for a feast from local eateries.

“Peregian Beach Village Square is a rare gem that provides a shady green heart for locals and visitors to peacefully enjoy while dining, shopping and collecting their mail,” Ms Kerrigan said.

“Town squares are not that common in Australian coastal towns. The square is the heart of the beachside town and interconnects the lanes and paths that are in walking distance of everything you need. The stage design hints at the old pool that once occupied the square, and spans over the central space with enlarged postcard-proportioned frames reminiscent of photographs of seaside holidays.”

Ms Kerrigan’s involvement in the community extends further than her architectural work. She is a passionate community stakeholder.

“Everyone in a community is a stakeholder. That’s where the term comes from, when people would put wooden stakes in the ground to proclaim their piece of land. There are many active groups here in the town, the retail traders, the community association, the Lions club, the surf club, the Peregian Originals, and the Veggie Village community gardens, the sports groups and the Community House.

“So it is from these ‘silos’, these groups, that we have to learn to connect together in the knowledge that this is our place and we are all stakeholders,” she said. “We have to determine our vision and values and these are reflected in our town plan.

“For example, we don’t want ugly signs in our town. With our local economic model we don’t need physical growth or sprawl when we can link with what already exists.

“And according to demographic forecasts, some 60 per cent of our population here will be those in the 15-24 years age group by the year 2020 – so we have to be aware of what the needs of this generation will be.”

Ms Kerrigan has been active in a number of campaigns including Save the Peregian Originals and the community input into the development fate of the old caravan park and old bowls club.

She has also been pro-active in setting up a local website for the townwww.inperegianbeach.com with a Facebook page link, and with local traders and community groups has initiated free wi-fi hubs at local eateries around the square and across the David Low Way to the tennis courts, Veggie Village, sandpit volleyball courts and the old bowling greens.

“In setting up these wi-fi nodes together, it doesn’t cost the traders collectively very much every month to maintain the internet connection, and this wi-fi is great for people getting together in the town, for parents wanting to communicate with their children playing tennis, at the skatepark or at the Veggie Village, for example. The local food co-op is very grateful for the connections that global IT specialist Ben Duncan at Atmail has made.  (Visitwww.inperegianbeach.com/2012/02/21/wireless-connection/ andwww.inperegianbeach.com/2012/08/06/free-community-wi-fi/).

“I started the In Peregian website and blog as a placemaking project to showcase our town and to associate place meaning with place economics. The concept is to create a virtual place to identify the social and environmental wealth and values held by our local community,” she said.

“The website will hopefully connect traders with the local community, hold a community vision of the place, reinforce the value of a healthy local economy and promote options instead of opposition. The website’s motto is: Eat, read, shop, love, local.

“A wise woman in our community, Maureen Harmony, introduced me to the 100 Monkeys Theory where repetition and passing on learning can bring positive change,” Ms Kerrigan said.

(The story of the 100th Monkey Theory began with a group of scientists who were conducting a study of macaque monkeys on the Japanese island of Koshima in 1952. The scientists observed that some of these monkeys learned to wash sweet potatoes, and gradually this new behavior spread through the younger generation of monkeys – in the usual fashion, through observation and repetition. The scientists observed that once a critical number of monkeys was reached – the so-called 100th monkey – this previously learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands. This story was further popularised by Ken Keyes, Jr. with the publication of his book The Hundredth Monkey about the devastating effects of nuclear war on the planet. Keyes presented the 100th monkey effect story as an inspirational parable, applying it to human society and the effecting of positive change.)

“For the future, we have to work together to address the pressure of growth, the value of community connection, the value of creativity and the values and vision of our town plan,” Ms Kerrigan said.