The Architecture of Discipline The Perth Drill Hall
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The Perth Drill Hall located in Francis Street, Perth, Western Australia is an extraordinary military building consisting of a large open space covered with an immense and peculiar curved truss roof. Constructed in 1896 the building was the first on the site of Swan Barracks which served as the Headquarters of the 5th Military District until 1992. Coupled with an imposing stone gateway building the drill hall was originally built for the Perth Volunteers and was at that time the headquarters of the burgeoning military volunteer movement in Western Australia. The Perth Drill Hall was one of a number of such architectural spaces constructed in Western Australian at the end of the nineteenth century for various military volunteer groups in response to a perceived need for the colony to take some responsibility for its own defence. Drill halls are spaces designed for a specific purpose - military drill and other related military activities. In a Foucaultian sense they were intended as spaces which would support the moulding of young men into an efficient fighting force. However there were other benefits to drill and military style education which inculcated responsible and moral behavior. These benefits were not lost on parallel youth organisations such as the Boys Brigade, the Boy Scouts and various cadet movements also charged with the defence (in various measures) of the British Empire. Against this background this paper looks at the heritage and architecture of the Perth Drill hall and other Western Australian drill halls in terms of concepts of discipline and discusses how the designed spaces of the drill hall were intended as a support for particular architectural and social practices which were embodied in the purpose and motivation of military style youth and volunteer organisations. The purpose of this discussion is to enrich understanding of drill halls and similar military buildings in terms of their embodiment of social practices leading to an enriched heritage interpretation.
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