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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/920259
- Reflecting on contemporary architectural interpretations of Australian Aboriginal identities
Ostwald, Michael J.
- The University of Newcastle. Faculty of Engineering & Built Environment, School of Architecture and Built Environment
- Architecture has contributed to the diverse and complex history of colonial social constructions of Aboriginality. Architectural interpretations of Aboriginal identities now play a significant role in informing how Aboriginality is perceived. Recently, several new forms of architecture have emerged in response to the increasing search for appropriate architectural expressions of Aboriginality. These buildings seek to generate an ‘Aboriginal’ identity that incorporates Aboriginal cultural references, environmental knowledge, signs and symbols. However, such strategies often reinforce the construction of Aboriginal peoples and cultures as irregular, natural and ‘primitive’. These architectural expressions of Aboriginality attempt to recover the past through the incorporation of traditional Aboriginal attitudes, customs and beliefs that are unchanged from historical descriptions. The designers of these buildings have defined, generalised and simplified the concept of Aboriginality in architecture from a non-Aboriginal perspective. This is an interpretive imposition of contemporary Western society’s application of stereotypes, icons and myths to present-day Aboriginal cultures. Furthermore, this contributes to the mis-representations that constrain contemporary Aboriginal peoples, identities and cultures, which also have the capacity to limit the possible meanings and functions of an ‘Aboriginal’ building. This paper addresses the conference theme by examining and exploring preconceptions regarding current architectural approaches to representing Australian Aboriginal cultures and identities. Through the investigation of examples drawn primarily from three buildings that are forms of cultural centres, this process examines the way in which mainstream architectural discourse constructs Aboriginal peoples as the ‘Other’ in opposition to non-Aboriginal people. The argument is developed through standard cultural theory approaches and does not include empirical evidence. Possible future strategies for the representation of Aboriginality in architecture are proposed to suggest how a ‘decolonised’ culturally appropriate Aboriginal architecture can be developed.
- 26th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ 2009). Cultural Crossroads: Proceedings of the 26th International SAHANZ Conference (Auckland, New Zealand 2-5 July, 2009)
- Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
- Resource Type
- conference paper