Djinjama - Cultural Design and ResearchDjinjama - Cultural Design and Research

Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct Competition

Project Team: Djinjama, COLA Studio, Hassell, Edition Office in collaboration

Client: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

Location: Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country

Date: 2022 (announced 2024)

Methodology: Designing with Country; Country Centred Design, Sensing Country

Type: Design

Overview: The winning design for Ngurra, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre competition has been unveiled. Djinjama with COLA Studio, Hassell and Edition Office in collaboration has won the design competition for the most significant new cultural precinct in Australia, Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct in Canberra.

The design for the national landmark houses both the National Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Centre and the National Resting Place. This significant cultural precinct invites reflection on the past while encouraging ongoing dialogue around what it means to live on a continent that starts with a First Nations understanding of Country, now and into the future.

The Ngurra Cultural Precinct is designed to sit on Country that is home to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who have lived for thousands of years amid a landscape of limestone plains, mountains, swamps and streams.

The design for Ngurra is set within an undulating landscape that captures the drama, beauty and spontaneity of the beautiful wild grassland landscapes of Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. The organisation, flow and movement of people throughout the design has been drawn from observation and meditation on the movement of animals through the landscape, a movement that has occurred for millennia.

Recognised by the jury for being ​“bold, yet elegant in integrating with the landscape”, our Country-led design incorporates two distinct spaces. The National Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Centre welcomes all visitors through a large, organic and embracing canopy, gently held aloft over the central plaza. The canopy frames and bows towards Mount Ainslie, marking the presence and arrival to the precinct.

The second space within the precinct, A National Resting Place, is a private ceremonial building that considers two decades of consultation.

The competition jury commended the design for its ​“commitment to rehabilitation of the site as a statement about the environment and First Nations connection to Country.”

The term Ngurra appears in many different Aboriginal languages around eastern Australia and is a word for ​‘home’, ​‘camp’, ​‘a place of belonging or ​‘a place of inclusion’. We hope the design concept sets the foundations for an ongoing dialogue and design development process together with First Nations peoples.

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