Best in Category - Design Strategy 2016

Indigenous Placemaking Strategy for Ngarara Place at RMIT University

Greenaway Architects / Harris HMC / Charles Solomon (Garawana Creative) / Aroha Groves

Greenaway Architects is a multi-disciplinary design practice lead by one of just 3-4 Aboriginal registered architects in private practice nationally.

The design methodology that informs much of the work we call 'Indigenous Placemaking'.

This approach embeds a collaborative environment that seeks to break down the typical silos of design to infuse a holistic design strategy that seeks participation, collaboration and meaningful consultation.

The landscape/urban design project - Ngarara Place at RMIT University, exemplifies this approach.

Design Excellence

Indigenous Sensibility

Ngarara Place united the specific skills, capacities and cultural connectedness of three key Aboriginal practitioners (an architect/a landscape designer/an artist) to deliver a project that infuses Indigenous sensibilities.

The initial starting point was to reinforce the importance of Aboriginal people’s connection to Country. This notion was woven through as exploration of the six/seven seasons of the Kulin Nation.

Indigenous knowledge systems were employed (around the importance of landscape in sustaining life & cultural practice, including planting traditionally used for edible, medicinal and practical purposes) as well as incorporating cultural motifs, born of the practitioners cultural heritage and connections.

Design Impact


Ngarara Place was carefully conceived through an immersive process of dialogue with the client, consultation with the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council and close connection with the core design team through a series of workshops.

This non-linear process is often elastic with time, yet highlights the benefit of a meaningful dialogue, informed consent and design excellence. Through deep listening and egoless conversation a process of creative problem solving was a primary engagement strategy tool.

The circular configuration and enveloping nature of Ngarara Place provide a useful metaphor for the manner in which the pillars of 'Indigenous Placemaking' have been employed.

Design Transformation

Spirit of Reconciliation

The design strategy sought to amplify the opportunity to realise and demonstrate a tangible process and activation of reconciliation.

The landscape reinforces layers of history & meaning through an active gesture of reconciliation, while infusing Indigenous sensibilities within the heart of the City of Melbourne and begins to broader the frame of reference in which people can connect to place.

Pedagogical panels engage the public by providing a cultural context of interpretation as a means of cultural and knowledge exchange.

The team at Greenaway Architects see this as a core strategy and distinct point of distinction in the delivery of projects, particularly those which reference to Indigenous stories.

The success lies in how the space has be embraced and used and the opportunity to continue a dialogue that notes that Aboriginal culture is something that everyone can celebrate and be proud of.