• The first design for the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre set to be built at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site. (Supplied (Woods Bagot))Source: Supplied (Woods Bagot)
The Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre will be the first of its kind in Australia, with plans to showcase a deep connection to Country set to be woven into the reference design of the building.
Douglas Smith

2 Feb 2021 - 2:46 PM  UPDATED 2 Feb 2021 - 2:46 PM

The first design for South Australia’s $200 million Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre have been unveiled by the architects behind the project, with inspiration from Aboriginal temporary shelters known as "wurlies" and "humpies". 

Set to be built on Kaurna land at the former site of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the 11,500 square metre building will also be designed with help from an Aboriginal reference group led by AACC ambassador and community leader David Rathman.   

Mr Rathman, said the reference group was working to ensure the centre reflected the diversity of First Nations peoples across Australia, particularly the Kaurna Nation, as it will be located on a significant Kaurna site.

“It has to be a centre they will all be proud of as a place to present their cultures to the world,” said Mr Rathman. 

“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."

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The Federal Government has committed $85 million to the development of the AACC through the Adelaide City Deal, while the State Government committed $115 million to the centre, including an extra $50 million funding in the latest State Budget.

In a statement to NITV News, Premier Steven Marshall said the “spectacular” new gallery would become a major attraction and drive year-round tourism. 

“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,” said Premier Marshall. 

“We will share with the world, with great pride, the incredible stories and unique cultures, of Australia’s first peoples, as never told or shown before.

“The reference design has been developed in close consultation with the ARG to reflect Aboriginal values and aspirations.”

Described as the “gateway to the oldest living cultures in the world”, the AACC will be designed by architects Woods Bagot and New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro over the next 12 months.

Construction is set to get underway later this year, with the Centre scheduled to open in early 2025.

Woods Bagot Principal, Rosina Di Maria said the AACC reference design was inspired by the temporary shelters created by Aboriginal peoples and known by names such as “wurlie” and “humpy” and would invoke a sense of welcome and safety.

“It also features fresh and saltwater reflection pools, an outdoor gallery and amphitheatre, views of nature and access to daylight,” said Ms Di Maria. 

“AACC will welcome visitors through a radically open ground floor, into a safe space with storytelling at its heart.

“The reference design features lower level galleries and terraced landscapes carved from the earth, providing exhibition and performance spaces and a gathering area for Welcome to Country ceremonies.

“The welcoming ground floor extends in all directions and reorients the building to Kaingka Wirra (Adelaide Botanic Garden). Tipped upper galleries reveal openings into the centre and outward views to depict truth-telling and transparency.”

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