Finalist 2021

Nardoo: The Gallery of Aboriginal Art & Landscape

Parisa Bazargani, PARISAIKA / Swinburne University of Technology

The design re-frames the margins of place through memory Architecture. Creating connection to place through critical siting and expressive outcomes.

Nardoo celebrates Indigenous culture & a collective sense of place. It's form is inspired by the native fern 'Nardoo' which is symbolic to the wetlands of its prior landscape. Its building functions narrate the memory of place through Aboriginal art. Its passage curates a journey as a space to be experienced.

Design Brief

The design brief challenges the role of architecture through purposefully engaging in the history and marginalisation of Indigenous Australians in Victoria's CBD and inner CBD suburbs.

The main objective of this design studio is to propose architectural solutions that 're-frame' the existing margins of Melbourne's CBD through memory architecture that will impact the local and visiting communities and enhance Indigenous representation through architecture.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

Aboriginal art is naturally embedded into Indigenous cultures as a means of gathering within community. Many Indigenous artists portrayal of landscape is through memory of the natural and metaphysical forms of the land. Structural memorialisation and celebration of time and place through Aboriginal art, create space for traditional stories to be told in an inviting environment within a shared contemporary culture.

The building communicates history through its form and function. Its form narrates the story of place. Curating purposeful engagement of space through its function and crafting a memorable journey for its visitors through communicating the memory of the past.

The building structure is divided into five main zones, The Foyer, The Galleries, The Exhibitions, The Terrace and The Studios. The Cycle Park at the lower ground level of the building, connects the existing pathways from the Yarra Cyclist trail. Providing accessibility to site through promoting sustainable travel solutions.

Through form and function inspired by the native fern 'Nardoo', the landscape conditions are considered through extension of external canopy to provide shading and placement of skylights to infiltrate the internal spaces with natural sunlight. Placement of native plants and materiality to the interior zones aim to connect visitors to place.

Connecting to the cultural avenue of the Melbourne Art Precinct, Boathouse Drive and The Yarra Cyclist trail. The building is positioned within the Henley Reserve parkland and creates an enclosed space alongside this route.

Design Excellence

Project Nardoo connects its present in celebration of its past. Conveying the intangible and symbolic qualities of memory through art and architecture. Further representing Indigenous heritage within the public realm through the building form and function in order to convey cultural memories of place through art and gathering of community.

Highlighting the value of tradition across generations through Aboriginal artists memory and connection to landscape. Through reconnection to story and place, knowledge of history and culture through art has created a bridge between all cultures, promoting a collective sense of place and community within modern day Australia.

Nardoo is a place for contemplation, reflection, engagement and recreation alongside the rivers edge. Proposing celebration of history and serving as a space of continuity for art, culture and gathering for the visiting local and global community.

Design Innovation

The sensorial qualities of the Yarra river and surrounding landscape inspire the buildings expression of nature through its architecture. The building aims to gently integrate into the existing topography, with pedestrian pathways providing circular access and linking routes to the rivers edge.

The roof ensures minimal overshadowing of the river through its height and curvatures. Its canopy extends to protect from sunlight. Four arched pathways frame views of the external landscape, creating accessibility around the site and inviting passage within the spaces.

Its interior includes five zones in which create a sequence of spaces; whereby reflection, learning, inspiration, connection and memories may be shared within the larger notion of Aboriginal Art & Landscape. The interior gallery walls are clad in the Silver Wattle Acacia timber, a native and symbolic material to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation who occupied the Yarra River landscape. Further referencing safe passage and access to visitors and connection to place.

The gallery's natural integration within its existing landscape creates a unique design feature which highlights the buildings purpose. The intentional interior spaces provide new opportunities for visitors of the spaces. Through cafe dining and a native store, further engagement and dialogue is created to enhance the sense of community within the gallery and its surrounding suburban environments.

Design Impact

Nardoo, The Gallery of Aboriginal Art & Landscape is nestled between city and parkland, alongside the Yarra 'Birrarung' river in Melbourne's city. Connecting to the Melbourne Art Precinct, cyclist and river trails, its placement aims to enhance the value of the existing cultural avenue of its site location through art inspired functions and purposes.

Further contributing to The Yarra River 50 Year Community Vision, 2020 through positioning of the project alongside the river as symbolic to Aboriginal culture. Enhancing community gathering by the river as a place for recreational activities, learning and understanding of culture and traditions past, present and future.

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