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KHT Project

In September 2014 IADV were approached by Lyons Architects and the Koorie Heritage Trust to collaborate with them on the relocation of the Trust, from their previous location in King St, to a new location at the Yarra Building, Federation Square. This was a fantastic opportunity for IADV to work with a leading Architect on a project that could ensure Aboriginal Culture had a visible and meaningful presence in one of Melbourne’s key public spaces.

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Jefa Greenaway and Carey Lyon during a design review session.

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Design review session with Fed Square, KHT representatives, Lyons and IADV.

The role of IADV was to act as design consultants, providing advice to the team at Lyons Architects who were the lead on the project. We participated in design workshops with the client and the architects and we also reviewed design ideas and provided input into how the design could best incorporate Indigenous design ideas and values. It was not our role to endorse or authorise the design on behalf of the Aboriginal community, however IADV attended community consultations which were organised by Kalinya Communications. Also while it was not part of the IADV role to undertake any working drawings for the process, Jefa Greenaway did so via his own practice, Greenaway Architects (on specific items, including the making/gathering tables, window features to Moogji lounge area, custom joinery/furniture selection/s).

A few key parts of the design which IADV provided input to were:

  • Engagement with the river. The existing Yarra building did not really engage with the river so we tried to address that by adding text around the windows to remind people of the river and it’s traditional name – Birrarung. Also we aimed to achieve this by setting up an axis from the lifts to the stairs that connected the building to the river, and allowing direct access along that axis to the balcony.
  • Incorporation of design elements from the previous building, such as the door details with the KHT logo and the totem poles.
  • Incorporation of language into the project in a normalised way. The signs for the bathroom include the local Koorie term ‘Djilawa’.
  • Incorporation of traditional concentric diamond patter from traditional shields, a pattern which was an existing motif of the KHT. This is used in the carpet patterning and in the columns. There are also hopes that the external facade will feature concentric diamond lighting installations, which work with the existing triangle patterns on the building facade.
  • Providing direct access to the kitchen and Moogji lounge on arrival. Rather then have these as separate spaces away from the entry, the aim was to highlight the community importance of these spaces by having them as the first thing you come to after arriving at the top floor. There is a not a separate staff kitchen/lounge space, instead there is one space where ever is encouraged to relax and engage, as a reflection of the values of the Trust and the community.

 

 

There was lots of work done to try and work out how to incorporate the replica scarred tree from the old building into the new one. However there was not the height within the building to accommodate it in one piece. Options were looked at for bringing over part of it, or flattening it and incorporating it into other spaces. However, given it is not an actual scarred tree, rather a replica of one from near Horsham, we felt that it would become too disconnected to bring over part of the tree, which would have been a reminder of a replica tree from the old building, which was itself a reminder of a real tree out in the landscape. It is understood that the replica tree will be used by another Aboriginal organisation and kept intact – which is a good outcome. While not incorporating the actual scarred tree replica, we did attempt to evoke memories of the tree with the making table in the foyer of the top floor. The table is in the form of a canoe, which is what the scar was likely created for, and also reinforces the connection to the river we were aiming for.

There was also an interest in speaking to the notion of embodying contemporary expressions of Indigeneity, while ensuring connection to Country and embed Indigenous references through the project, while demonstrating a pride in the rich history exhibited through the collections and the import role that the Trust as custodians and keepers of the collection have, while facilitating means to share and amplify opportunities for cultural exchange within the space.

You can read more about this project in an article in The Conversation.

Meeting space with KHT collection items displayed in glass walls (photo by Peter Bennetts)

Meeting space with KHT collection items displayed in glass walls (photo by Peter Bennetts)

Entry stairs with totem and Bunjil statue from King St building (photo by Peter Bennetts)

Entry stairs with totem and Bunjil statue from King St building (photo by Peter Bennetts)

 

Shop and retail/information desk with Aboriginal flag behind (photo by Peter Bennetts)

Shop and retail/information desk with Aboriginal flag behind (photo by Peter Bennetts)

Making table evokes connection to a canoe (photo by Peter Bennetts)

Making table evokes connection to a canoe (photo by Peter Bennetts)