01 Feb 21

Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre revealed

The Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre (AACC) is a new paradigm that showcases the past, present and future of Aboriginal cultures while supporting contemporary art practices and events across disciplines.

On releasing the concept design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot, the South Australian Premier, the Hon Steven Marshall MP, said the striking design, with overlapping layers encircling a central gathering space, embodied the vision of the AACC as a gateway to the oldest living cultures in the world by incorporating the elements of earth, land and sky.

“The AACC will offer extraordinary immersive experiences, combining traditional storytelling with modern technology, celebrating 65,000 years of Aboriginal cultures and creating a global tourism attraction,” he said.

Grounded on Kaurna land, the design narrative of the 11,500 square metre building in Adelaide, Australia, is based on the deep Aboriginal connection to country, place and kin, with connected layers being the foundation of the design.

Lower level galleries and terraced landscapes are carved from the earth, providing indoor exhibition spaces, performance spaces and a gathering area for Welcome to Country ceremonies – within the outdoor amphitheatre. Reveals in the upper galleries frame views oriented to the sky and natural surroundings, while also exposing the activity within – depicting truth-telling and transparency. The AACC offers 7,000 square metres of diverse exhibition spaces – ranging in size, height and light quality, each offering views of the natural surroundings – seamlessly blending inside with outside, natural with built.

Between these exhibition levels is a radically welcoming arrival ground plane that extends to the land in all directions and reorients the building and its entry to Kaingka Wirra (Adelaide Botanic Garden). An additional 8,100 square-metres of public realm welcomes visitors with a gentle slope of native landscape at North Terrace, providing seamless access.

At the heart of the building is a flexible, three-story gathering and performance space that visitors spiral around as they make their way to different levels. For the structure and building skin (façade) the design team drew inspiration from the temporary shelter structures created by Aboriginal peoples across Australia, known by names such as “wurlie” and “humpy”. A basket-like nest of columns shapes the central space and anchors the entire building, placing storytelling at the heart of the building. Draped onto this structure is a softly shimmering woven skin that tilts open to connect Aboriginal art and cultures back to the public and to Country.

Working closelywith the AACC Ambassador David Rathman, the design team engaged in deep conversations with members of the AACC Aboriginal Reference Group to discover the design vision.

Woods Bagot principal Rosina Di Maria described the consultation process as a humbling and emotional experience.

“Our role is to listen, and translate the aspirations and ambitions of the ARG into a design response. The architecture evokes a sense of welcome to all visitors – particularly First Nations peoples – and a connection to culture offered through the human experience,” Ms Di Maria said.

“The Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre will be a place for all Australians to remember ourselves, to learn the truth telling of our past, and to re-imagine ourselves together to create new memories as a connected community. It will be a platform for developing Australian culture – informed by the past, shaped by the now, for our future,” she said.

AACC will be a building of the 21st century, flexing to curation, use and time.

Aerial view. Artist’s impression of the concept design for the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre at Lot Fourteen

About the collaboration

Woods Bagot has partnered with New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro, consistently ranked one of the world’s leading design practices and highly regarded for its role in the High Line and the recent renovation and expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. DS+R has been associated with Adelaide since collaborating with the Australian Dance Theatre for the Adelaide Festival in 2009.

The design collaboration on the AACC began on the international design competition winning entry for Adelaide Contemporary (2018).

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