Synapse SAIF Project

Architects POD (People Oriented Design)
Location: Australia, Cairns
Year: 2017
Area: 744 m2
Photographs: Michael Marzik
Other Team Members: Indij Design, Architecture and Interior Design

The Synapse (Supported Accommodation Innovation Fund) SAIF project provides supported accommodation for eight clients with disabilities. The project is the result of a consortium of non-government, corporate, Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations working together to provide an innovative accommodation facility and model of support for Indigenous clients with brain injury.

Image by Michael Marzik

This project is the first of its kind in Queensland. It comprises eight individual self-contained units for people with acquired brain injury clustered around a central facility. The design has been developed with the client Synapse, Indij Design, and Abriculture and with guidance from the traditional owners of the region. The layout of the facility was developed to maximise the climatic performance of each unit, to provide privacy between the units but also enable casual visual surveillance by the health care workers.

Image by Michael Marzik

The landscape design and interior design have been designed by Indigenous consultants. The garden has been created as a rehabilitative setting for the clients staying in the facility with signal and bushfood plants prominent in the selection. And the interior design materials and colors have been carefully selected to assist people with vision impairment and to help people connect back to the country.

Image by Michael Marzik

The facility meets the platinum standards of the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines and has a 6 star commercial energy efficiency standard. The buildings are specifically designed to be non-institutional, comforting and culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The form of the individual units has references to traditional rainforest dwellings and the roof of the main facility twists slightly like a palm frond base or water carrying vessel.


SAIF is a transitional facility, where clients will move on from after twelve to eighteen months either back to the country or into the care of existing service providers in the Cairns region. The facility will be occupied and in use in June 2017.

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