Designing with Country
When First Nations speak of Country, it is about the place of their ancestors, stories, lore and knowledge. These memories and connections form the basis of songlines and bind people to their Country. Country is a matter of sustenance and is therefore as much a cultural and spiritual condition as it is a scientific or physical one.
Acknowledging that a site belongs to a specific Country on a particular part of this continent enables us to draw inspiration, ideas and opportunities directly from that place and the people who belong to it. Our Designing with Country work guides the way we think about projects that engage with First Nations communities and contexts.
Completed in May 2020, St Leonards Health Organisation Relocation Project (SHOR) accommodates the NSW Ministry of Health and a number of related organisations under the aegis of NSW Health.
Why would we make buildings, modern precincts and communities connect to Country and what makes this important?
Our underlying belief is that it is the first point of connection to culture, creativity and science, and an awareness that it has existed in Australia for over 50,000 years.
Understanding Country means we stop reading landscape as being empty and start to see that parts of the land have been ritualised and have meaning beyond what we can see. In thinking about Country, there is a logic for movement located in the idea of a track, logic for occupation emanating from the idea of a camp and logic for events found in the idea of ritual.
The ambition of the Designing with Country Framework is to enable a greater relationship between people, knowledge and environment and work towards a non-conflicted future. This ambition can be realised by acknowledging the significance of First Nations culture in the reconsideration and development of the built environment.
Left - Yarrila Place, Atrium; Top-Right - Campus to Country; Bottom-Right - Blak Box
Our approach to Designing with Country is grounded in an understanding that there are many layers of influence that can affect the outcome of a project.
The first layer is First Nations and acknowledges and engages with the Community to understand aspirations, the connection to, and characteristics of, Country and culture.
The second layer is Colonial and draws upon the economic networks and hard infrastructure that has come to enable the city today.
The third layer is Multicultural and, by way of inclusion, acknowledges the modern multicultural history and vibrancy of the locale.
The fourth layer is bound to the Technological and understands that harnessing current technology connects to the future.
The fifth layer is Global and seeks to both benchmark the project as an exemplar and understand its relevance on the world stage.
The UTS IRC is proposed at the University of Technology’s Haymarket precinct and is considered to be Australia’s first home away from home for indigenous people studying in the heart of Sydney.
Here at BVN, we are embedding Designing with Country into our multi-layered design approach to open ourselves and our clients to the potential of learning from our First Nations communities. What better way to understand the cultural tapestry that will take us into the future than acknowledging the ancient origins of Country.
A primary vertical circulation path, beginning at the ground courtyard and extending through research spaces, connects the various learning and workspaces through this highly interactive, three-dimensional public realm – a ‘track’ that not only links spaces but emphasises the hidden opportunity for users to understand the building as part of a broader setting and Country.