Affirming and Reaffirming Indigenous Presence: Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community, Public and Institutional Architecture in Australia

  • Elizabeth Grant
  • Kelly Greenop


The design of specific buildings to house Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural artefacts, artworks, activities or organisations, has become important in Australian architecture since the 1960s. A growing number of buildings—and new architectural types—have been devised to support, display and safeguard Indigenous cultures and to accommodate Indigenous organisations that have become more prevalent since self-determination. These new public, institutional and community building typologies provide an architecture that often speaks to the both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population. This chapter examines a number of different types of Indigenous institutional, public and community buildings, surveying architectural precedents within the genres of keeping houses and cultural centres, museums, art centres, educational and health projects. Some of Australia’s leading architects, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have contributed to these works, seeking to create architecture that better fits the needs of Indigenous users, to participate in the recognition of the unjust treatment of Indigenous Australians, and to dignify contemporary Indigenous cultures through architectural excellence. Public, institutional and community buildings that cater to and purport to represent or make visible Indigenous communities have developed their own typologies during the twentieth century and continue to do so. The need for Indigenous input for buildings to function according to needs and expectations, and to reconcile decades of exclusion and racism still poses challenges for policy makers and architects alike. Evidence-based design that demonstrates improved health and wellbeing and educational outcomes in culturally appropriate buildings is occurring, but integration between research and design is needed, along with greater post-occupancy evaluation, and a commitment to learn from designs and their effect on Indigenous peoples and communities. Architecture and placemaking that celebrates cultural identity, fits with Indigenous socio-spatial and cultural needs, and is devised by or with Indigenous peoples, is an important aspect of making Indigenous cultures visible and demonstrating Indigenous resistance and resilience in contemporary Australia.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Design The University of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.The University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of ArchitectureThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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