Indigenous architecture

Issue 29 Words: Emily Braham Photography: Shannon McGrath

As we face longer and hotter summers and more unpredictable weather patterns, what can we learn from Australia’s original custodians about creating places that respond to and take advantage of our natural systems?

“Aboriginal people have been here for up to 80,000 years and the climate has changed so much in that time – adapting to that is what Aboriginal culture has had to do,” says Indigenous architecture graduate Rueben Berg. “So it’s important to take on those ideas of having to adapt to new things and the idea of making the most of the resources that you have.”

Rueben and fellow Indigenous architect Jefa Greenaway’s frustration with how rarely contemporary Australian architectural practice leant on this ancient knowledge led to them establishing Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria (IADV) in 2010.

The creation of IADV is part of an attempt to better incorporate Indigenous culture into the built environment. It is also an effort to support and encourage more practising Indigenous architects, of which there are only 13 graduates nationally.

Rueben says the rich tapestry of Australia’s cultural history has often been considered ‘too hard’, “but we’re trying to show it can be quite a powerful tool, and we can use it to share stories about place so everyone can get a better understanding of Aboriginal culture.”

Rueben hopes that fostering Indigenous architecture will encourage ecologically sensitive design as one way to strengthen modern representations of the nation’s history. After all, traditional understandings of climate, rainfall, diurnal temperatures and the availability of materials were key to survival – arguably aspects which have at times been forgotten in buildings that seek to separate the natural world from interior living.

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Cover of Issue 29
You can read more about Indigenous architecture in Issue 29 of Sanctuary magazine.

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