Ngarara Place at RMIT University
- Greenaway Architects
- Harris HMC
- Charles Solomon
- Aroha Groves
Ngarara Place is a landscape/urban design intervention which builds upon the cultural & campus life of RMIT University.
Situated between University Way, Chemistry Lane and the Old Melbourne Gaol, it recognises the oldest continuing culture in the world, by building a visible presence and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and histories as connected to the lands of the Kulin Nation in which RMIT stands.
Greenaway Architects drew upon Indigenous knowledge systems, landscape design and public art in collaboration with Indigenous practitioners to showcase connections to the 7 Season of the Kulin Nation to demonstrate cultural continuity/adaption.
The most visible gesture, signifies the power of art in the public realm, acting as a striking marker in the landscape, being a specifically curated artwork by Aboriginal digital artist Aroha Groves, titled “Metaversal Dreaming No. 51 Re-Imagined”.
The piece evokes nature, place and connections to Country acting as a backdrop that reinforces the landscape setting in which it is located.
The artwork amplifies the space, while becoming a key signature of the Ngarara Willim Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (RMIT University) and focusses on the client’s cultural activities for which the space was conceived.
Situated at RMIT’s university campus in Melbourne, the value of knowledge exchange was particularly important part of the brief.
‘Pedagogical panels’ were strategically positioned to engage the public by providing a cultural context of interpretation as a means of cultural and knowledge exchange.
Specific graphics were created in-house to reinforce and support the design narrative and to provide opportunities for staff, students and the generally public to meaningful engage with the space.
The use of seasonal dials, colour, Aboriginal language and cultural motifs were all utilised to reinforce the connection to the 6/7 seasons which was the key driver to the design.
Within a labyrinthine city based University campus, the means to orientate oneself and to find particular spaces is often a challenge.
Ngarara Place is discretely tucked in beside a staircase away from the primary circulation spine of the campus.
A specifically pigmented and sandblasted concrete paving uses an etched chevron graphic which doubles as the primary access points into the courtyard space.
A series of radiating arms reach out (beyond a central sculptural firepit) to adjacent buildings through a broader urban design gesture drawing people in from adjoining buildings and pathways towards the landscape space.
Critically embedded as a key design feature is the infusion of cultural motifs which pick up on Indigenous cultural and artistic practices specific to the South East of Australia, namely traditional carving practices (references to Dendroglyphs – carved trees) as well as body paint.
Colour and texture reach out beyond the space to capture people to enable a clear directional access to the space.