decolonising design in the built environment

Public Forum: Contextualising the William Barak Apartment Building


It would appear that my earlier blog post "Face the Irony" has sparked unexpected interest across Melbourne (in particular) with my perspective of the new ARM "portrait building". My naivety of the apolitical environment of architecture in Australia is intriguing even for myself!

There has been mixed feedback to both the building (as architecture) and my blog post (as an Aboriginal voice), with discussion arising in places I would never have thought imaginable. Friends from uni asking questions, family interested and commenting, colleagues sharing their views. And of course the rounds on social media - twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Emails, inboxes, messages from Melbourne, wider Australia and internationally, from both black and white readers, some from archi/design background, some not. Some in favour of the building, some not.

The level of passion and honesty in the discussion has amazed me. At a recent catch-up dinner with some of my tiddas, a good friend commandeered me (lack of a better word) upon my arrival - to try to tease out what her thoughts were of the portrait building. As an Aboriginal woman she was unsettled, unsure, undecided. Some of her family were at the same mission as William Barak, and were involved in the 1881 Parliamentary Inquiry into the treatment of Aboriginal people at Coranderrk, the inquiry which was instigated under the leadership of Barak.

We shared thoughts, open-ended questions. We also shared silence, time and space as we reflected on our histories, our families, our stories.

Whichever form of critique/reflection/discussion is utilised - I am excited that so many people are starting to think critically and engage with the discussion about Aboriginality and architecture - whether it is about this particular building, or any other project in the built environment.

The Koorie Heritage Trust will be presenting a public forum to more broadly raise the discussion about the use of Aboriginal representation in design. It will be hosted in partnerships with Lyons Architecture and Indigenous Architecture & Design Victoria (IADV). A formal flyer for the event will be available this week and I'll post a copy up as soon as it is published.

The panel will consist of Carey Lyon (Lyons Architecture), Jefa Greenaway (IADV), a Wurundjeri elder (tbc) and myself. Howard Raggatt (ARM) initially accepted a role as a panel member, but unfortunately he has since withdrawn. Hopefully there will still be representation from ARM, as it is an important perspective to be included in the forum.  The panel will be chaired by ABC Radio National.

For anybody interested in attending, the details are:

Public Forum:
Contextualising the William Barak Apartment Building
Indigenous Representation in Design and Architecture
Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne
Tuesday 24th March 2015
6.15 - 7.45pm

See the Federation Square event page here.

I hope to see/meet some of you there!

/////////////////////////////////////////////// UPDATE ON 20th MARCH 2015 ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Howard Raggatt is back on board! Excellent news in terms of a more balanced discussion.

The Chair has been confirmed as Andrew Mackenzie, former editor of Architectural Review Australia, and author of ARM's monograph (not yet released)

If you're on facebook, you can join the event page