University of Technology Sydney - Semester 2 2019.

Project Description

How might architectural practices work with Indigenous knowledge and people to reconnect to Country in urban landscapes?

Wingara’ba’miya was a studio about exploring the relationship between architectural and place-making practice and Indigenous knowledges of Country in urban Sydney. In Australia, architecture has been a mechanism for a white European, predominantly male, colonisation that has systematically erased local Aboriginality. Early colonial policies forced Indigenous peoples to relocate beyond urban areas, creating an illusion of ‘empty landscapes’ to support the Bourke Proclamation terra nullius - the artifice of a land belonging to nobody. This remains the context for contemporary architectural practice in Sydney in 2019.

Wingara’ba’miya is a Sydney D’harawal language word that has layered meanings. It addresses a group of people to say “You will understand” but also means “You will foretell or imagine.” It is used as a provocation to the students, as they foretell or imagine future city spaces and relationships with Indigenous community on Country in Sydney. We foretell an alternative spatial future, one in which architects challenge practices of erasure and marginalisation. By encountering global Indigenous thinking and ‘right of reply’ to colonial archives, our architectural methodologies are challenged to evolve.

This studio was an exercise in spatially engaging specific local Aboriginal knowledges and ways of knowing within architectural thinking to question what a decolonised practice of architecture could become… through three performative acts. The process was Indigenous-led with outcomes benefitting both students and Indigenous community.

Learning Methodology

In a period of 12 weeks, architecture students enrolled in this studio engaged with local Aboriginal community to engage in an ongoing dialogue of colonisation and of our different relationships to place. The students worked individually or in pairs across three key phases.

1) Positioning: Working with Indigenous engagement protocols, students first placed themselves in a discourse. Students were invited to delve into personal narratives, and in doing so learned about their own relationship to colonisation, finding productive ways to bring themselves to a project with authenticity.
2) Right of reply: Students learned about current practices in other disciplines, whereby Aboriginal scholars are facilitating an Indigenous ‘Right of Reply’ to colonial documents about them and their families.
3) Critical cartographies: in this phase the students had complete design freedom to chart their challenge to the discipline, producing physical maps, as well as artefacts and books of the stories that were essentially challenging the idea of what it is to be an architect in Australia.

To learn more about the teaching methodology head on to the detailed learning methodology where you will find more details on these three phases as well as the weekly tasks.

How does this studio match PlaceAgency Objectives?

The studio created an opportunity for students to work closely with local Aboriginal representatives and explore traditional architecture and placemaking practices from an Indigenous perspective with a very personal journey. Students challenged architecture and how to approach and engage with Indigenous peoples, the archives and the narratives of Place.
Students were encouraged to identify how their practices perpetuate colonisation discourse or support the healing process supporting open and respectful communication.

Activities – Studio Outline

ActivityDescriptionKey dates for activitiesKey learning objectives
Smoking ceremonyEnacting Culture: Smoking Ceremony And StringingFri 26-JulyEngaging with Indigenous cultural practices
Community EngagementAlong th semester students engaged with nine different scholars and archivists.Friday 26 July to Monday 4 DecemberDeep Listening, Engagement, Responding to feedback.
Final ExhibitionMuseum of Sydney (1-4th of November) as a part of the ‘Sydney Open’ festival1-4th Nov.Engage community about the design and collect feedback

Location Description

Museum of Sydney (final exhibition)


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Studio Leaders
Joanne Paterson KinniburghJoanne Paterson Kinniburgh
Project champion

Shannon Foster

- Architecture