By: Casey Bucher
Recently I have done some research on indigenous architecture, specifically in Australia since they have such a large population of indigenous and aboriginal culture. Explained below is some information regarding indigenous architecture, while also zoning in on a few indigenous architects.
Many researchers and practitioners generally agree that Indigenous architectural projects are those which are designed for Indigenous clients. The application of evidence-based research and consultation has led to museums, courts, cultural centres, houses, prisons, schools and a range of other institutional and residential buildings being designed to meet the varying and differing needs and aspirations of Indigenous users. Indigenous architecture of the 21st century has been enhanced by university-trained Indigenous architects who have incorporated different aspects of traditional Indigenous cultural references and symbolism, fused architecture with ethnoarchitectural styles and pursued various approaches to the questions of identity and architecture. Out of the 11,000 architects in Australia, Only 12 indigenous architects in Australia. According to the latest ABS statistics, indigenous people make up 2.5% of the general population. By these figures, proportionally the number of indigenous architects should be more like 275.
The first indigenous architect is Glenn Murcutt. Murcutt’s motto, 'touch the earth lightly', convinces him to design his works to fit into the Australian landscape features. His works are highly economical and multi-functional. Murcutt also pays attention to the environment such as wind direction, water movement, temperature and light surrounding his sites before he designs the building itself. Much of his projects are residential homes, very straightforward in design and shape.
Another architect who’s focus is on the aboriginal culture and needs is Gregory Burgess. One of his most noteworthy buildings is the Brambuk Living Cultural Centre. It was designed in collaboration with the local Aboriginal community, utilizes an undulating roofline to reflect the surrounding landscape while simultaneously mimicking the shape of a cockatoo, which is the totemic symbol for two indigenous cultures, the Djab wurrung’s and Jardwadjali. His works are often organic shapes and his participatory design (co-design) approach has produced some remarkable and unique buildings. His work has been exhibited at major galleries in London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Edinburgh and all Australian cities.
A third architect, Dillon Kombumerri was born and raised in an indigenous community, Yugemir. Dillon is the Principle Architect for Indigenous Design in the NSW Government Architects Office. The Indigenous Design Unit is unique in Australia. Its Indigenous architects bring an understanding of indigenous culture and values to the process and work closely with Indigenous groups to ensure that building design and technology is appropriate and sustainable and represents community values.