Aboriginality and architecture : built projects by Merrima and unbuilt projects on Mer

O'Brien, Kevin (2006). Aboriginality and architecture : built projects by Merrima and unbuilt projects on Mer MPhil Thesis, School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland.

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Author O'Brien, Kevin
Thesis Title Aboriginality and architecture : built projects by Merrima and unbuilt projects on Mer
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning and Architecture
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2006-06-26
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 78
Language eng
Subjects 120101 Architectural Design
200201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies
Formatted abstract
Few occasions present an opportunity to withdraw from the time-cost mantra that constantly threatens to cripple design thinking in the 'real world' of architectural practice. As such, the following research by design is one of those rare moments permitting a sustained opportunity for insightful design reflection as a practitioner. It occurs after ten years of practical experience immersed in the subject at hand and lands squarely on the crossroads of my holistic architectural development. This is the net in which this document is cast.

As a practitioner (and occasional design tutor), I am fascinated by the specific design problem of proposing a culturally responsive architecture. The projects I engage with are what I consider the fundamental projects that sponsor, support and affect the day-to-day events of the Aboriginal community at large. Put another way, I am constantly immersed in the dynamic relationship between Aboriginality and architecture due to my cultural, educational and professional experiences. The result is that I have collected a substantial array of experiences over the past decade that I now think needs to be re-considered and recorded (at the very least for posterity). As such, I am convinced that a design based form of research will allow me to draw upon these previous experiences in order to present a meaningful body of knowledge that will not only reveal a culturally derived design position but also illustrate it as an active agent in engaging hypothetical design case studies.

This thesis document is, for the most part, a subjective document. This is the inherent nature of design and it has affected the research in its entirety. Through a series of design led considerations, this research comprises four parts that aim to illustrate the relationship between Aboriginality and architecture.

The first part is a reconsideration of completed design projects (that I have been involved with to varying degrees) against a limited (but potent) body of literature that aims to establish certain semiotic, ideological and re-presentation issues relevant to an architecture engaging Aboriginal contexts. This opportunity for reconsideration reveals a further criterion of design meaning that becomes the basis for initiating the design case studies in the next stage.

The second and third parts constitute a series of active design investigations. These parts take the previously revealed ideas of meaning and investigate three design case studies on Mer in the eastern Torres Strait Islands. Three projects provided extensive design investigation opportunities, namely, a Church building for the Church of the Torres Strait congregation, an Elders Meeting Place, and a Keeping Place and Workshop. Each project had particular idiosyncrasies that upon completion resulted in observations best described as design intent. It also became clear that there was 'something else' present in the completed projects that would shift the discussion in a new direction.

The fourth part represents a period of reflection on the previous stage in order to reveal the 'something else' emerging as an unconscious design driver. It uncovers the notion of liminal space, or the space in between, as a means of broadening an understanding of the 'relationship' originally pursued. The three design case study projects are renewed specifically to find these liminal moments and extract an understanding of the greater condition. What is further encountered is the greater holistic context, or 'culture-scape', that any project is part of.

The fundamental realization that occurred through this design research was the formulation of a Spatial Diagram that illustrated my perception of space (and time) as a cultural construct that anticipates those moments of symbiosis. This revelation has become the pivotal moment establishing a personal critical position from which I am able to evaluate a broader notion of architectural design in practice (and in education). As such the academic journey embedded within this document has delivered a set of findings that have sharpened my design thinking and reset a new course of exploration m my next stage of architectural practice.
Keyword Aboriginal Australians -- Dwellings -- Design and construction -- Queensland.
Aboriginal Australians -- Dwellings -- Design and construction -- New South Wales.
Architecture, Domestic -- Australia -- Designs and plans.
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Thu, 28 Jan 2010, 15:05:44 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service