Making architecture more inclusive

Next generation of architects and designers taught the importance of Indigenous inclusion by prominent researcher.

The construction industry is booming and students of our world-renowned architecture course will be designing the structures of tomorrow.

But Indigenous architecture researcher Carroll Go-Sam says the industry needs to get better at adopting design principals that reflect the Indigenous identity.

“Indigenous people should not just be called to the table to endorse something that someone has already decided,” she said.

Not just about making buildings look Aboriginal

In 2015, a 31-storey portrait of Indigenous leader William Barak was unveiled on the façade of the Swanston Square building in Melbourne.  

The building caused a heated debate within the architectural profession but Go-Sam says Indigenous voices were largely dismissed in the ensuing discussion.

Conducting her own personal research, she found opinions amongst the Indigenous people she spoke with were greatly varied but none were opposed to the use of Barak’s face on the building. 

Melbourne's Swanston Square building features a portrait of Indigenous leader William Barak.

Educating the next generation

The Barak façade shows the importance of taking a holistic approach to Indigenous engagement in building design, something Dr Christine Phillips is eager to instil in her students.

“It’s critical our students know how to best embed Indigenous knowledge into our cities,” Phillips said.

“To have a female Indigenous scholar talking on this topic is important but still rare in university teaching.”

Go-Sam said involving Indigenous communities in construction projects can benefit everyone.

“I don’t think that’s being fully realised in some projects and that has to definitely change,” she said.

Carroll Go-Sam is a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Aboriginal Environments Research Centre and spoke to RMIT architecture students as part of a broad survey of Australian architecture.

Story: Aeden Ratcliffe

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