The Shara Clarke Aboriginal Cultural & Education Centre


  • Ava Clifforth and Erika Bollweg


This project explores the notion of a colonised country and how we might design a shared future of architecture charged by multiple histories and different cultures. The Shara Clarke Aboriginal Cultural & Education Centre was designed in collaboration with Erika Bollweg and Uncle Lenny Clarke, who is a Kirrae Whurrung Elder.

We seek to test what Aboriginal sovereignty means within building and whether Indigenous knowledge systems might prompt new forms of architecture. We encourage visitors to connect with Country in a new way.

Key Features


We challenge conventional modes of architecture as a predominantly human-centric domain by dialling up the parameters of playfulness, explorability and intrigue. Our site is dynamic, productive and sustainable; designed as an all encompassing conduit for community and environmental engagement. We engendered a new architectural identity for the side that draws on Kirrae Whurrung cultures and traditions, considering notions of Country based on knowledge shared through Uncle Lenny and the broader Kirrae Whurrung community.


We explored different kinds of enterprise opportunities that could be offered to support ongoing self – determination and long term opportunities for the community in regional Western Victoria.

By night, the carpark reinvigorates as a lively market with food trucks, music and craft. A weekend farmers market hosts local traders, artists and buskers and generates revenue for the on site agricultural, kitchen/Co-op and bee-keeping enterprises. As you can see in our parallax view, the top layer of the car park boasts panoramic views of Country. At this stage, much of it is intentionally hidden by our tensile mesh netting system.


We propose an architecture that might accommodate temporary and permanent modes of operation that transform the site over time.

Our enterprise map is a guide for local businesses and independant contractors to establish meaningful relationships with the local community and visitors to The Shara Clarke Aboriginal Cultural & Education Centre.

The map is to be read from top to bottom, where key infrastructural inititatives such as revegetation and building digital identity sit within seven categories. The different nodes are linked in an evergrowing web, designed to be continuous.
within our design for economic prosperity and longevity. is a plan for how culture and art facilitates in the economic input on our site. Stages of input and output and how you can read it.


In the process of mapping the site we thought a lot about the Cartesian grid and its implications as an imperialising frame, which often presents just one version of the earth’s surface. At the same time were inspired by Frei Otto and R&Sie(n)’s tensile structures that challenge the boundaries of indoor/outdoor inhabitation, framing and entanglement. We exploded the grid into a network of webs to symbolise a paradigm shift away from dogmatic Colonial ways of seeing and being with Country. Formally, the rigid cage is melted into a structure that facilitates a flourishing social, cultural and environmental ecology.

The nets are made from a flexible polyester material draped over a net of steel cables. They can be walked on, in and around by visitors and wildlife and act as a framework for re-vegetation. A program in our proposed Kooyang Music and Arts Festival will invite local Indigenous women to run weaving workshops, where the nets are used as a frame to thread Puung’ort, which is a native grass that was originally used to weave the eel trap together by the local Indigenous communities. Park managers employed in our Indigenous Ranger Tour Guide Initiative will activate steel cables, pulleys and pegs to shift the dynamic structures according to plant growth, seasonality, functions and events and changing pathways. Here the web of nets act like the basalt rocks used in eel traps that surround Uncle Lenny’s property.


The Archie Roach Music Hall was designed to emulate the geological features of the Western Vic Volcanic Plains. Visitors enter the warm, hearth like centre of the theatre via the exterior spiral balconies. This pathway is multi-functional, with nooks and crannies for reading, art exhibitions and constantly shifting framed views of Country.
The visitor is rewarded with panoramic views of the Framlingham forest and Hopkins river. A water collection pool echoes the surrounding Maar lakes that form on top of volcanoes in the region. Not only does the pool reflect the stars at night, but it supplies irrigation to the surrounding vegetation and links the various gathering points in our site.
The section reveals the layers of our theatre and school, including dynamic acoustic panel system, hydraulic stage and kinetic wings.

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