Iconographic reincarnation is one thing (ARM’s William Barak building) but more critically it is the ‘landscape’ of Country that has been lost to us in the city and which best informs us in future proofing our cities.
We know a little but not a lot about the landscape canvas and its systems as we cloak Country with city, unwittingly covering its pores and lungs as our urban construct is becoming increasingly hot, devoid of water, blocked arterially and lacking in green; lacking in processes, culture and the ‘place’ of Country that, being so well understood by Indigenous Australians, can reinform our prospects for liveability in the city. Clean water, streams with fish and eels and green cool places of resilience and life are aspects of Country that the Aborigines managed so well over a very long period, yet we have destroyed and actively worked against it through a very recent history of engineered disappointment and loss and the hapless attitude of ‘We can do it regardless’. Our liveability is threatened yet can be reinformed through a renewed understanding of Country, engaging with the issues of the land, and who better to be working with than its custodians and managers through time.
We have been greatly inspired by the Wurundjeri’s Uncle Bill, by his passion for things Wurundjeri and Indigenous Cultural Landscapes, and in hearing his plea for engagement at the very early stages of design, before design.
It is in this context that we have been provoked to seek deeper engagement, to imagine and dream about new places of remembering, layering new and yet-to-be-formed memories over old, remembering the lost and in doing so framing a future. This is not a nostalgic view but one that is fully loaded with the systems of the city, with resonance and survival. We know a little but not a lot, of the forms and flows, the interrelationships and the stories, yet we need to know much more and to learn, to reclaim, to rediscover and reinterpret.
In our work we are seeking a new conversation about place and the city, outside of a conventional approvals or conservation posture but rather a dialogue with the indigenous as part of a new connection to Country and for the new to embrace and reinterpret the old. For us this is the beginning a journey, when there is nothing fixed, at the beginning of a story. Our hope is that it isn’t trivialised as an interpretive trail, a series of signs or an educational piece but we are contemplating a genuine conversation with a sensitivity to what has been lost and to create a platform of opportunity to reclaim some of that loss in new city making work.
We, out of respect, out of a place of ignorance, out of a need to unblock the choked arteries of the city, need to re-engage with the custodians of this land. Their stories and insights are rich and deep. We need to re-engage.