By Debra Eilering
The bark hut differs greatly from the steel and glass Modernist style that now dominates sustainable architecture. Importance must be given to what can be learned from these ancient/semi-ancient cultures, the materials they used and the architecture they created. "Nature is to the Aborigines a system in which natural species and phenomena are related, or associated, in space and time"(Elkin, 1943). Before an attempt is made to analyze the architecture of the Aborigine in Australia, it is most important to identify their cultural characteristics. The idea of context and place for the aborigines was and still is paramount. The writings of their mythical beliefs help us to understand their deep attachment with the environment they lived in. For example the naming of groups of people of different areas: "These names imply that the Aborigines recognized the effects of environmental difference on their lives, sufficiently important to warrant the use of distinguished names" (Drew, 1985). These different names, (not to be confused with the separate naming of tribes) were derived from the particular characteristics of the environment and the food sources. For example the 'Jabu': people of the rocky range country, 'Bila': people of sand and spinifex and 'Ka-wadji': of the coastal north area.
It is clear that the primary commodity of the Aborigine was land. This land covered a specific area, its boundaries handed down through generations. This difference in values to the white settler can be seen as the driving force behind the continued disputes over land rights and Aboriginal title in contemporary Australia. However for the study of their architectural structures it is important to understand that the Aborigines: "were aware of even small differences in their environment and recognized the effect these had on their economic life" (Elkin, 1943). This statement helps to explain their extremely nomadic lifestyle. Seasonal variations in climate and known hot spots such as water wells and river tracts were all important in these movements.
Fathy states, " I believe that shelters made by Aboriginal Australians were actually a demonstration of architectural design. To do this I examined the parallel between the design of tools and weaponry as well as sheltering (architecture)" (Fathy).
The aboriginals made their shelter out of bark, sticks, grass and stone also some Aboriginals lived in caves. In the hot windy districts the Aboriginals made windbreaks from bark, branches or grass. These windbreaks gave shade and shelter. In the wet districts, Aboriginal huts had frames made of branches and a thick covering of grass or bark over the frame kept out the rain. Some huts were also built on stilts and a smoky fire was lit underneath to keep mosquitoes away from the huts. The forest was their Home Depot.