Australia’s growing architectural relationship with Indigenous knowledge

Market Insights
4 years ago
3 minutes

In the recent 2019 National Architecture Conference, Indigenous knowledge and how it is being used in architecture in Australia was an overriding topic. 

During a key panel discussion, individuals from academia, Indigenous practice, urban design, and government discussed how possibilities are opening up for Indigenous-based architecture. 

They touched on how different forms of architectural practice were operating in the fight for larger social and collective issues, and how architects can become critical and strategic thinkers in building to help the environment. 

One example of this comes from the New South Wales Government Architects, who have embedded design into public policy. 

At the heart of it lies the statement: “design offers a stand-alone and contributing process to planning our future, bringing creative intelligence, lateral thinking and capturing the collective imagination.” 

Part of helping the future includes sustainable infrastructure to help tackle the issues of global warming. 

Dr. Albert L Refiti, who is a Samoan architect and academic, believes more and more buildings are being designed to tackle global warming and use their design to adapt to the environment.

“Faced with issues of global warming and sustainability a lot of designers are turning to Indigenous house models,” he said. “They are also looking at ways to deal with public architecture that reflect conditions that are either sustainable or environments that are healthy for people who are living in terrible situations.”

This sustainable style has already begun in Brisbane, Queensland. 433 Queen Street is set to become Australia’s first subtropical-designed building.

Already making history as the only absolute riverfront CBD project in 12 years, 433 Queen Street will breathe and respond to Brisbane’s beautiful benign climate.

433 Queen Street

Each apartment sits within a garden environment which ingeniously offers you the ability to open and close to the elements as you wish.

In Melbourne, Breathe Architecture is doing something similar, but focussing more on affordability and accessibility.  

Their purpose is to design architecture that is meaningful and accessible to all – to build from a holistic and sustainable point of view, reconciling ecological and social design impacts within any economic climate.

Bardolph Gardens by Breathe Architecture

Victoria’s capital is also showing that Indigenous routes in architecture doesn't have to stem from new development, but from conservation of the old.

Melbourne’s “Our City, Our Square” campaign is showing how collectives can successfully fight for better public spaces, even against a corporate behemoth like Apple. 

Federation Square, Melbourne

In December 2017, the Victorian State Government announced that Federation Square’s Yarra building would be demolished to make way for an Apple megastore. Public outrage ensued — eventually leading to heritage authorities being successful in their challenge to block it.

Daniel Glenn, an Indigenous American architect partner with 7 Directions Architects/Planners, perhaps sums this topic up best.

“What makes a City Unique is its climate; its location but also its Aboriginal or native history which preceded the City by thousands and thousands of years.

“When you consider the idea of sustainability, learnt from our ancestors whose designs were very reflexive of each place; based on the local materials, based on the local climate and the local cultures. To create architecture that is distinct and reflects that place.”

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