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There’s No Place Like (Without) Country

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Placemaking Fundamentals for the Built Environment


In this chapter, we critique traditional placemaking approaches to site, through the Indigenous Australian concept of Country. We contest that a move away from the word ‘placemaking’ is overdue. We instead propose a practice of ‘making place’, and further ‘making space’ (i) that allows overlooked spatial (hi)stories to reclaim sites that they have always occupied, and (ii) for the very occupants and stories that are ordinarily overlooked in urban and spatial design practice. To do so is to accept that we must look to those marginal occupants, practices and writings that challenge the gendered, heteronormative, white, neuro-typical and colonising discourses that dominate architecture. Placemaking practices employ community consultation, privileging local stories and quotidian ways-of-being in response. It is our position, that even these ‘community-engaged’ processes perpetuate erasure and marginalisation precisely through their conceptualisations of ‘Site’ and what constitutes community. We present a model for an Indigenous/non-Indigenous collaboration that offers methods of spatially encountering site within a colonial context. We share our experiences of a project that we collaboratively produced in the Badu Mangroves at Sydney Olympic Park, to share the overlooked spatial histories and cultures of countless millennia. We have woven together Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies and axiologies, and design-as-research methodology.

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  1. 1.

    This chapter is the collaborative work and shared voice of all authors. Through Australian Indigenous Women’s Standpoint Theory (Moreton-Robinson, 2013), we have at times broken from our shared story, to offer Shannon’s voice in the first-person reflections in bold text—as her solo contributions to the discourse.

  2. 2.

    This persists despite late twentieth-century developments to critique this notion. During the 1970s and 1980s terms like genius loci (Norberg-Schulz, 1979), critical regionalism (Frampton, 1983) and ideas of place identity emerged as a critique of modernist universalisation of site. Together with empirical approaches that placed ecological knowledge into readings of site (McHarg, 1992), these late twentieth-century developments ushered more phenomenological approaches and site-specificity. Largely today they remain in placemaking practices, landscape architecture and urban design as niche modes of practice. These new, increasingly discursive community-oriented practices reify the idea of unrepeatable instances of sited knowledge (Kwon, 2004), and therefore marginalise site-specificity in the globalised neoliberal property market.

  3. 3.

    This premise is our extrapolation of a constructivist approach, in which site is construed and constructed by the designer who negotiates specific place-bound identities, while simultaneously negotiating identity as fluid (Kwon, 2004). For us this approach is helpful because it conflates manifold qualities of site and identity alongside the designer as co-creator. It remains problematic though, when it effaces the role of design in creating a future identity, and in neglecting effects of marginalisation and erasure within that future urban identity.

  4. 4.

    Wanngal (people of Wann Country).

  5. 5.

    Other nations with connection to Wann may have similar practices.


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Foster, S., Paterson Kinniburgh, J., Wann Country. (2020). There’s No Place Like (Without) Country. In: Hes, D., Hernandez-Santin, C. (eds) Placemaking Fundamentals for the Built Environment. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-981-32-9623-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-32-9624-4

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