The design for Adelaide’s Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre (AACC), scheduled to open at innovation precinct Lot Fourteen in 2025, has been unveiled.
The vision is the result of a collaboration by New York team Diller Scofidio + Renfro (known for its work on the High Line in Manhattan and the renovation and expansion of the Museum of Modern Art) and global Adelaide architecture firm Woods Bagot (who’s leading the design for the Central Market Arcade redevelopment).
The collaboration began on their winning entry for the design competition for Adelaide’s proposed modern art gallery, Adelaide Contemporary – the initial vision for the Lot Fourteen site by the former Labor government, later revised by the Liberal government as an Aboriginal art centre.
The design, with overlapping layers encircling a central gathering space, is inspired by the temporary shelters – known as wurlies, humpies and gunyahs – created by First Nations peoples across Australia. The team says the concept is based on the deep Aboriginal connection to country, and the elements that link us to place – earth, land and sky – which were also the backbone of their design for Adelaide Contemporary.
The $200 million site will feature fresh and saltwater reflection pools, an outdoor gallery and amphitheatre and views of nature. Lower-level galleries and terraced landscapes carved from the earth will provide exhibition and performance spaces, and a gathering area for Welcome to Country ceremonies.
The design concept was developed in consultation with members of the AACC Aboriginal Reference Group (ARG) led by AACC ambassador and community leader David Rathman. Rathman, who is also chair of the SA Museum’s Aboriginal Advisory Committee, said the ARG was working to ensure that the centre reflects the diversity of First Nations peoples across Australia, particularly the Kaurna Nation.
“It has to be a centre they will all be proud of as a place to present their cultures to the world,” Rathman said in a press release. “The building has to reach out to you, to make you want to come inside and to come back. This is a fantastic opportunity for Aboriginal people to have ownership and leadership of what will become one of the state’s leading tourism attractions and to be active participants in that venture through business and career opportunities. There is a lot of excitement for this centre.”
Woods Bagot principal architect Rosina Di Maria says the design team’s role was to listen, and to “translate the aspirations and ambitions of the ARG”. “The architecture evokes a sense of welcome to all visitors – particularly First Nations peoples – and a connection to culture offered through the human experience,” she said in a press release.
“The Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre will be a place for all Australians to remember ourselves, to learn the truth telling of our past, and to re-imagine ourselves together to create new memories as a connected community. It will be a platform for developing Australian culture – informed by the past, shaped by the now, for our future.”
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall says the striking reference design embodies the vision of the AACC as a “gateway to the oldest living cultures in the world”. “The AACC will offer extraordinary immersive experiences, combining traditional storytelling with modern technology, celebrating 65,000 years of Aboriginal cultures and creating a global tourism attraction.”
DS+R partner Charles Renfro called the project a “ground-breaking vision” and “place of pride”. “The AACC will welcome visitors through a radically open ground floor, into a safe space with storytelling at its heart. It will be a building of the 21st century, while remaining agile enough to allow future generations to evolve their own storytelling.”
Construction is scheduled to start later this year and the centre is due to open in early 2025.