News / November 2019
Monday 29 April 2019
HASSELL designs new arts and cultural precinct set in remote Northern Territory

HASSELL and Architects Without Frontiers are working together with the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation and Maningrida Arts and Culture on a proposed new precinct in the community of Maningrida, known as Manayingkarírra by the Kunibidji people, the traditional owners of the land in which the proposal sits.

This project will relocate the separate Djómi Museum and Bábbarra Women’s Centre within a new, integrated Maningrida Arts and Culture Precinct dedicated to revealing the history, cultural practices and contemporary art movement of Maningrida and surrounding regions.

Located in far north Australia, Maningrida has an immediate population of 2300 but also services 32 outstations and homelands in the region. With a dozen different language groups, the community is also one of the most multi-lingual communities (per capita) in the world.

HASSELL Principal and Board Member Mark Loughnan says conversations and consultation with the local people are pivotal to the success of the design process – and to reflecting the powerful connection between place, cultural practice and art making.

“A custom-made facility for the community is crucial to supporting and harnessing the creative, cultural practices within this region,” Mark adds. “The precinct not only provides a local service to the people of Maningrida and its outstations – it can also create sensitive and sustainable connections to the world beyond.”

“With intensive consultation, we can establish a place that truly engages with the community, develops ongoing local legacy and training programs, and also supports a form of social enterprise through the build and the creation of artwork, workshop spaces and education spaces,” Mark says.

The HASSELL design for the precinct is in collaboration with senior artists and cultural leaders of the region to ensure the design responds physically, culturally and socially to their context and feels inherently of its place. The design features two new integrated buildings, each with a different personality and approach to meet its function and fulfil the needs of users.

The New Bábbarra Women’s Centre is more internal, private, local and connected, while the New Djómi Museum is more public and outward reaching. Even though the buildings will use similar materials, construction and systems, they will still feel distinct in terms of how people experience and use them.

The shape and orientation of each building reflects the needs of both visitors and operators. Because it contains the main public entry, the museum will feature an engaging central space surrounded by a series of ‘gallery boxes’ separated by outward views to nature and the adjacent airport. As a counter point, the women’s centre will be more focused on Maningrida and the local community.

The design relies on the landscape to frame and shape access points to the buildings, creating private access for the women’s centre while still offering a welcoming public entry to the museum. HASSELL has also reconfigured the arts centre entrance to align it with the museum and form a single orientation point for all three facilities in the precinct.

John Mawurndjul OAM says young Aboriginal people have grown up with another culture now (non-Aboriginal culture) and are making their own new history, but they are taking the old stories with them.

“This project is story Ngarduk - my story. I looked at those buildings, the [old] museum and Babbarra designs, and I saw the walls cracked, the roof leaking and I decided we needed to move those important places. We need all the arts and culture areas together konda (here at the art centre site) to make one arts and culture area. All the young people will learn about kunborrk (song, dance) and all the cultures from here,” John said.

“At this place, they will see their family history, all the bim (art), the wubbunj (canoes), photos and films. I have travelled all around the world with my exhibitions and people all around the world want to come and learn more about our art. We should have buildings that are kamak rowk (really great) in keeping with our art, culture and designs,” he said.

The proposal seeks to prioritise local employment, education and Indigenous Business Enterprise opportunities throughout the design, construction and life of the precinct. This is proposed through a range of measures including commissioning bespoke artwork to be integrated within the design and developing an indigenous participation strategy to maximise use of locally made materials and workforce.

“A key goal of the project is to collaborate with local partners on design solutions that address long-term community needs and also improve the social and economic capacity of local organisations and workforce,” Mark says.

The concept design for the Maningrida Arts and Culture precinct has been facilitated through the partnership of Architects Without Frontiers together with HASSELL and the network partnership members comprising Tract, Hayball, Bonacci, LCI, Grocon, and WT Partnership.

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