decolonising design in the built environment

Sovereignty + Spatial Design


I feel the tension in the atmosphere break down around me. Rain has drifted in over the escarpment after a 30 degree day. The relief is indescribable. I hear the water, I feel the breeze, I smell the rain, I see the change in shadows and light. I still taste coffee and cigarettes.

Yuin, do your thing.

In with the clouds roll thoughts of sovereignty. Questions, thoughts, obligations, contradictions, frustrations, dreams and aspirations. I'm missing beats -  jumping from one thing to the next and overwhelmed with uncertainty re: how to process. How to process something that I don't fully understand - in knowing that I may never truly understand my role in this space - and in knowing that I can't forever think, forever circle, that my honest obligation is to do.

I've done a lot of thinking about sovereignty and spatial design over the last 12 months and not committed to articulating it in drawing or design or writing or yarning. It's that big leap in testing - where to from here? Once it's down, I have a responsibility to push harder, to inject energy and to challenge myself in my thoughts and processes.


How do we / How do I ? How will I? Will I?

How do we, as blackfullas with obligation, responsibility and accountability, to our Country, to our communities - how do we utilise our skills, interests, knowledges, histories, passions - to assert our sovereignty through spatial design whilst maintaining integrity?  

In more broadly appreciating spatial design - structures, landscape, access and infrastructure, lighting, urban scale design - anything that connects us, guides us, functions for us in the built/designed environment - how can we, and how will we, choose to utilise these disruptions as assertions as a priority, and what value will this achieve for those who come after us? - our children, our children's children, our children's children's children...

Rather than being stuck within the institutional frameworks of archi/design and sprinkling on some blackness in the process - how do we move forward to asserting our sovereignty through our work & sprinkling on some archi/design along the way. How do we flip the power play and stop indulging in the frameworks that continue to oppress and control us?


When I think blackness and sovereignty and spatial design, I get caught up critiquing the current and changing impact and contemporary political value of tent embassies. I don't have an answer. I have endless questions. How can we negotiate and respect a history and obligation for protest and resistance - whilst also asserting our sovereignty for our own people - not as a protest, not to gain coverage, not asking for or demanding change from those that oppress us- but enacting change for our own people in whatever ways we can, our own healing, our own communities. I recognise and acknowledge the power and value in protest - but what do we do alongside this? We have a choice about how/when/why/where we place our energies, how we strategise.  

How do we move beyond symbols and gestures. How do we get mob to acknowledge our own aspirations, not those of white people. How do we move forward with divided communities and lateral violence, how do we honestly say "one mob" when we are constantly suspect of our own people willing to negotiate with bullshit token gestures and agreements with governments and their puppets who have no interest in blackness, but only in the money that goes into their own pockets.


The rain has stopped. The clouds are lifting. My thoughts, not so much.