London, United Kingdom
New York, New York
Masdar City, Abu Dhabi
Auckland, New Zealand
Indigenous consultation has been a huge part of the design for the Aboriginal Arts and Culture Centre (AACC), what have you learnt that you’d like to share with others?
The importance of listening. As designers, we need to continue to expand our understanding of what it means to listen and really focus on letting others be heard. Listening is more than hearing – it requires a dedication to decoding, to nurturing, to uncovering deeper meaning, and an investment of time. A lot of joy can be found in the creation of dialogue.
It is also important to take criticism and know that making your building legible requires you to navigate to the root of all concerns. Be generous with your availability – building trust and practicing mutual generosity make the consultation process an educational experience. Build awareness that you are walking with a culture’s past to create a safe place for its future.
“Listening is more than hearing – it requires a dedication to decoding, to nurturing, to uncovering deeper meaning, and an investment of time.”
How will WB and DS+R continue working with the Aboriginal Reference Group (ARG) on AACC? What’s next for the project?
The voices of the Aboriginal Reference Group remain constantly present as we navigate the AACC through every day, week, and month of its design lifetime.
The sense of welcome and connection to culture we are striving to create at the AACC would not be possible without the wisdom shared by the ARG as the voices of their communities. Alongside our equal design partners Diller Scofidio + Renfro, our next steps are to deepen our design response by gathering the voices of the First Nations people to respectfully embed them into the built result.
Based on healing, awareness and awakening, the AACC will be the result of collaboration based on trust and empowerment.
Concept image of the Aboriginal Arts and Cultures Centre.
“the AACC will be the result of collaboration based on trust and empowerment.”
You are leading Woods Bagot’s journey toward a Reconciliation Action Plan – what does that mean?
The creation of a Reconciliation Action Plan (or RAP) allows Woods Bagot to continue its public support and active contribution to Reconciliation. The RAP will empower our global studio to commit to a defined vision for reconciliation and explore our sphere of influence within the architectural, design and property industry – promoting opportunities for sustainable business growth, career development and economic participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
My role is to be an active agent of change within Woods Bagot by explaining the how and why we’re walking this path. We may already be over 150 years old, but Woods Bagot is still growing and transforming. The RAP is much more than a report, it is a pledge and plan for our future that we will adopt.
“My role is to be an active agent of change within Woods Bagot by explaining the how and why we’re walking this path.”
What is being done in the industry to increase the representation of First Nations People in the design process? Can you speak to the bigger picture?
Policy and advocacy are as much a part of the architecture and design industry as buildings and interiors. As a global firm, Woods Bagot is working to raise design standards by setting exemplar standards in corporate policy and active engagement with the community, allied professionals, and all levels of government across the world.
Many of our major project clients also have their own industry participation plans –commitments to ensuring a certain percentage of employment of first nations people and engagement with local business – which bolster representation and support small business. Woods Bagot works with these clients to support their participation plans, while continuing to demonstrate our own.
When it comes to the bigger picture, it is not a one size fits all solution. Cultural engagement is about recognising, respecting and celebrating what makes cultures unique – the experience our team had on AACC with the Aboriginal Reference Group would have been different to those of our team working in New Zealand with the Matapopore Charitable Trust on Te Pae Ngāi Tūāhuriri / Ngāi Tahu values and narratives for the Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. However, what unites us is our commitment to raising cultural awareness and including the voice of our communities.
By focusing on how we can make change through initiatives like the RAP, Woods Bagot is taking steps to improve the design industry. We hope that one day these initiatives are simply the industry standard however we are committed to creating active change– the time to evolve and create impact for good is now.
Contact Rosina Di Maria
01 Feb 21
Christchurch, New Zealand