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curtin university school of design & built environment 

Curtin University’s new School of Design and Built Environment building delivers an allegorical landscape, articulating the site’s song-lines and living indicators. A semi-enclosed north facing courtyard centrally organises the built form, creating a symbolic and functional space. REALMstudios’ design for the building extended across three roof gardens, a service lane, interior plantings and a temporary native landscape to the northern lot. Through a client elevated RAP, a major Noongar artwork is also integrated. The outcome of this project delivers a meaningful expression of country through both landscape and art, expressing natural processes within a highly constructed campus context.

Design Response

The ‘Living Knowledge Stream Design Guidance’ 2018, was a guiding brief for the DBE project, highlighting blue/green systems, ancient paleo-channels and two Songlines: ‘Kujal Kela’ (Twin Dolphin) and ‘Djiridji’ (Zamia).

These Songlines intersect on site, creating a powerful reference point. The Living Stream was to find physical form and connect beyond, forging a link to broader systems. These narratives drove the landscape design and public realm artwork.

REALMstudios collaborated with the Centre for Indigenous studies to incorporate concepts and again during artwork delivery to deepen cultural expression.

The key space is restrained, facilitating flexibility for various uses and events. The design supports exhibitions, installations, movable furniture, and experimentation to flow between internal and external spaces. 

A central raingarden creates a ‘reef’ for gathering and pause. REALMstudios negotiated a deep soil connection through basement – forging a literal connection to country. A grove of Melaleuca anchors the space, one of which is a mature transplant requiring long term planning & site coordination.

A seasonally responsive expression of water, performative, and activated during rainfall events, the water feature is designed to be attractive during dry periods, which occurs regularly. In this state it references the wet, but only randomly and theatrically delivers upon it. This water cleaning & reuse system supports a contemporary interpretation of the ‘Living stream’ - a landscape that articulates a broader context of song-lines and living indicators.

Public Art Integration

Curtin University’s and Lend Lease’s elevated Reconciliation Action Plans provided funding for an emerging Noongar artist commission, forming part of the John Curtin Art Gallery collection. REALMstudios collaborated with Apparatus as lead Public Art Coordinator in the selection process to brief, identify and procure the successful artist: Kamsani (Kam Bin Sallah).

REALMstudios supported the awarded artist, Kamsani Bin Salah in development of his work ‘Winin Katidjin Bilya’, an expression of cultural narratives into the courtyards concrete surface, and further layering the deep stories associated with the ‘Living Knowledge Stream’ and the two songlines that intertwine near the DBE building.

Landscape Architecture Award for Health and Education Landscapes

AILA WA Landscape Architecture Awards 2023

Award of Excellence for Health and Education Landscapes

AILA National Landscape Architecture Awards 2023

REALMstudios then supported Kam during his design development process – collaborating on spatial and material testing within the overall courtyard design. Kam spent time with traditional elders; Dr Noel Nannup & Professor Marion Kickett to access relevant stories and receive cultural guidance.

Once Kam had developed a preferred art concept for ‘Winin Katidjin Bilya’, REALMstudios worked with him to develop the overall construction methodology, collaborating to detail the artwork in Rhino and CAD. Various mentors were also involved in this process, assisting Kam to build upon his expertise.


Whadjuk Noongar


Perth, WA


Curtin University






Kamsani (artist), John Wardle Architects, Apparatus Public Art and Cultural Services, Hydroplan, Lend Lease


Dion Roberson, Frances Andrijich

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