New Indigenous Architecture of the Pacific Rim was a well over-due, provocative public lecture.

Carroll Go-Sam, Albert L Refiti and Daniel Glenn, three influential Indigenous architects, were brought together by the University of Queensland’s Indigenous Design Place and School of Architecture to discuss their practice and research on the state of Indigenous architecture . The lecture, held at the State Library of Queensland, stimulated the audience’s thoughts and ideas on equality of recognition, reception and approach towards contemporary Indigenous architecture.

Michael Aird an Indigenous photographer and curator opened the night with a timeline of photographs capturing aboriginal people in the city of Brisbane. This set the scene for the talk by allowing the audience to recognise the presence of Indigenous history and culture in today’s city.

Carroll Go-Sam gave insight into the architectural approach and public response towards the Melbourne building “Portrait”. The multi-residential project by ARM Architecture depicts the face of William Barak – a leader of Wurundjeri Willum. The façade became a heated topic among architecture media, to which Go-Sam questioned the voices being heard in the critical appraisal of the architecture – was anyone listening to the indigenous voices? Go-Sam highlighted how voice adds to architecture by clarifying, diverging and modifying perceptions of Indigenous culture.

Albert L Refiti discussed a new moment in time – a new Taeao – for Pacific architecture. Refiti identified that contemporary Indigenous buildings of the Pacific have applied traditional form as a concept. Refiti stated that form as a concept allows lessons and traditions of Indigenous architecture to be transported from the village to the city. Although the form does not change physically, culturally the form takes on the notion of an icon to which will continue to relate to identity and place.

the building creates a cultural identity through site-specific responses, which in turn will gradually restore variation amongst contemporary architecture.

Daniel Glenn, the final speaker of the lecture shared his architectural practice and approach to design. In his own work, Daniel collaborates closely with the tribes of the land to incorporate Indigenous building attributes in regards to ornament, structure and sustainability. Glenn stated that by doing so the building creates a cultural identity through site-specific responses, which in turn will gradually restore variation amongst contemporary architecture. A short film of his project “Hidden Waters” further informs his architectural responses and approach.

The night concluded with a discussion between the guest speakers, Dr Elizabeth Grant and Professor Paul Memmott. A memorable question in the discussion, “What defines Indigenous Architecture in the Contemporary World?” was answered with different opinions from all. It can be agreed upon that contemporary Indigenous architecture is currently indefinable.

All speakers in the discussion are contributors to the soon-to-be-published Handbook of Contemporary Indigenous Architecture. Their sharing of ideas in the lecture was a perfect platform to provoke public discourse on the recognition, the value and the state of contemporary Indigenous architecture.

A film of the public lecture is available on the Indigenous Architecture Facebook page.

Georgia Birks

Photo credits:
Photo 1: Architect Daniel Glenn collaborates closely with Native American tribes to incorporate Indigenous building attributes in his designs. Photo by Michael Aird.
Photo 2: L to R: Caroll Go-Sam, Albert Refiti, Daniel Glenn, Elizabeth Grant and Paul Memmott. Photo by Michael Aird.
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