An opportunity for cultural exchange
The Koorie Heritage Trust relocation represented more than just the design of a building – it evolved into a cultural activity. More than simply about functionality or materials, the project became an opportunity for cultural exchange and meaningful engagement with the Trust’s community.
The project is designed over two levels, beginning with an exhibition and retail space on the ground floor designed to meet and rest. At the top of the escalators, a graphic of the Manna Gum flower leads to the metaphorical front door and represents the abstraction of a smoking ceremony. From the top of the stairs, light floods from windows to draw people back to the lifeblood of the city – Birrarung (the Wurundjeri name for Melbourne’s Yarra River). We used colours in our designs to illicit nature – the sky, the water, the earth, the trees.
The main space heroes a table of epic proportions, measuring 7.5 metres long and weighing 1 tonne. The table pays homage to design features from the King Street building that could not be brought to the new location, particularly the replica tree. As a memory of the tree, Jefa Greenaway from Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria (IADV) designed the table in the shape of a canoe referencing a scar tree, which is an Indigenious practice of scarring trees to remove bark and create canoes. Display panels and drawers housing artefacts resemble a river bed to the sides, encouraging people to gather and engage. Through space, colour and materials we designed the space to invite both Koorie and non-Koorie people to enrich themselves in a cultural experience.