South Australia’s State Commission Assessment Panel has granted planning approval to the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre in Adelaide, clearing the way for what will be the country’s premier Aboriginal art centre.
To be built on Kaurna land, in the Lot 14 precinct at the site of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital, the major building is designed by Woods Bagot and Diller Scofidio and Renfro, with landscape architect Oculus.
The panel found the proposal to be an “interesting and innovative design” that interfaced well with North Terrace and responded positively to its setting between the Park Lands, university campuses and the CBD. “The overall development is compatible with the topography of the land and the built form interfaces well with the soft and hard landscaping surrounding the building – providing a seamless connection to the public realm,” the assessment report states.
South Australia’s government architect Kirsteen Mackay supported the design, saying it had the potential to “create an immersive curatorial and cultural experience, and to be a place of pride, connection and belonging for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.” However, she also recommended further design resolution and stressed the importance of the material selection for the facade, the quality of the interior spaces and the integration of the basement ramp and service areas with Bice Road.
Several conditions have been placed on the planning approval, including that the final facade design and material selections and the landscape plan be resolved in consultation with the government architect and submitted to the satisfaction of the State Planning Commission.
Woods Bagot and Diller Scofidio and Renfro originally won a design competition to design the Adelaide Contemporary art gallery at the Lot 14 site, before a change in state governments saw the brief change. The architects have developed their design for the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre in consultation with an Aboriginal Reference Group bringing together Kaurna representatives and others from a range of Indigenous institutions and organizations. The landscape architect Oculus has also collaborated with Aboriginal landscape architect and visual artist Paul Herzich on the design.
In planning documents, the architects describe how the centre will become a showcase for all facets of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and cultures, including visual art, music, dance and theatre, spirituality, kinship and family, lore, science, technologies, engineering, language, food, medicine, environmental practice and land use.
“The building design originates from the Aboriginal conception of the elements that link us to place: earth, land and sky,” they note.
The lower-level exhibition spaces and terraced landscapes are designed to appear “carved from the earth” while the upper-level exhibition spaces each frame a view to the sky and natural surroundings.
“At the heart of the building, a series of structures grow from the lower-level circular gathering and flexible performance space – anchoring the upper exhibition spaces back to the ground,” reads the design statement. “A crafted metal skin pleated at ground plane, rises to form the building’s inherent structure. A series of spiralling forms elevate above ground, tilted and open – connecting Aboriginal art and culture back to the public and to Country.”
Early works are scheduled to begin in late 2021 with completion pencilled in for September 2024.