The Nissen hut was designed in 1917 by British Army Major Peter Nissen and built as housing for troops in WW1. Its semicircular shape deflected shrapnel and bomb blasts, making it a perfect building for wartime use. The huts were constructed out of corrugated iron, plasterboard and cement and could be constructed quickly and cheaply.
Due to their affordability and adaptability, Nissen huts became the all-purpose building for Australian hostel camps in the 1950’s and 1960’s. One of these hostels was based in east Preston, on 21 hectares of flat land near Darebin Creek, along Chifley Drive and where the Northland Shopping complex now stands. Built in 1952 to accommodate the influx of new Australians who had made Preston their new home, at one stage the hostel housed over 10,000 people.
The land was sold to Myer on the 3rd of April 1963, leading to the construction of Northland Shopping complex on the site, which opened in late 1966.
Carroll, Brian & Rule, Ian (1985). Preston: an Illustrated History. Preston: City of Preston.