Access to a local corner store filled with fresh food and living supplies is often taken for granted by those living in Australia’s urban centres, mainly because for the most part they’re excessively available. 

But for those living in remote communities, say in the Northern Territory’s outback regions, access to these essentials can be very restricted.

In 2012 The Commonwealth Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet (CDPMC) recognised this problem and selected 18 communities in the Northern Territory to receive funding from the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) to upgrade their local grocery store facilities.

Working with AECOM, MODE architects were called on board to provide architectural services for the first of the grocery stores to be built under the initiative, and in November 2014 the new look, fully equipped and fully staffed local corner stores were opened to the people of Papunya and Haasts Bluff. The project is called Remote Community Stores.

The building’s external walls are prefabricated concrete panels from Ritek that incorporate built-in insulation and can produce a thermal rating of R-value 4.0. MODE said they chose this system for its robustness, ease of erection and insulation properties. “The graphics on the store are all Dulux paints with the honey ants a link to local dreaming story, said the architects.

But recognising the issue and getting funding is only half the story. Designing buildings equipped to endure and provide for the some of the most remote areas in Australia poses its own challenges.

MODE notes that an important requirement of the design brief was to create a comfortable and healthy building where food security was maintained in the very harsh and uncompromising climate of Central Australia where temperatures can reach 45 degrees in summer and drop to below freezing in winter.

The architects thus turned to robust building materials, a highly insulated building envelope and passive design principles in attempt to achieve this.

On top, the grocery stores feature Colorbond-clad gable roofs with a Spandek profile. The roofs are insulated by CSR Anticon 80mm heavy duty insulation rolls and 75mm Tontine thermal and sound batts that were laid over the top of the custom orb ceiling. MODE chose Anticon because of their reputability and the Tontine insulation because it is fibre-free, which meant no protective gear was required during installation. 20mm window security bars are fixed to windows of the managers room.  

In recognising the role of the stores as a part of the community identity, MODE also used referential detailing such as the Aboriginal cultural totems and dreamtime paintings throughout the buildings.

In doing so, MODE has helped produce two robust social hubs for the communities of Papunya and Haasts Bluff, ones that could play a pivotal role in the social, economic and health outcomes for local residents.

The stores are an ongoing project which MODE said they are slowly rolling out across the Territory.

Two types of interior flooring was chosen, Karndean Plank Vinyl for the retail area as it is heavy duty and Forbo R11 Safestep in the kitchen for its slip resistance. Access to healthy food is now readily available and kept fresh within the refrigerators situated under the insulated ceiling and roof.

The Remote Community Stores by MODE are currently being considered for the Northern Territory Architecture Awards, hosted by the Australian Institute of Architects.


Clients: Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Completed: November 2014

Location: Northern Territory (North West of Alice Springs)


Sarah Hubbard
Jenny Culgan
David Bridgman


Probuild NT Pty Ltd

Emma-Jean Turner
David Bridgman


Colorbond Roofing Spandek Profile

CSR Anticon 80mm heavy duty Blankets
Tontine 75mm Polyester Thermal and Sound Batts

Ritek XL Thermal Wall System 165mm thick

Karndean Plank Vinyl
Forbo R11 Safestep