Gathering Space: Ngargee Djeembana

Carolyn Briggs (Designer), Sarah Lynn Rees (Architect)

Research output: Non-textual formDesign / ArchitectureResearch


Research Background

The curatorial brief from the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) for their landmark exhibition Who’s Afraid of Public Space? was to develop an environment for art, performance and the exchange of ideas while also considering the notion of public space. The response of Senior Boonwurrung Elder Dr N’arweet Carolyn Briggs AM and Palawa woman Sarah Lynn Rees began with a yarn. N’arweet spoke of not seeing herself or Country reflected in the built environment and that very few public spaces spatially or materially reflect Country and the cultures to which they belong.

Research Contribution

The design of Gathering Space: Ngargee Djeembana is driven by the core belief that architecture has the power to give identity back to Country that architectures of the past have taken away. Set in ACCA’s main gallery, the work consists of seats fashioned from a topography of 55 materials ranging from those in their natural state to modified built environment forms. Each material is either in-part or fully made from materials Indigenous to the geographical region now called Victoria and readily available as built environment material. Spatially, the design reclaims the gallery as an Indigenous space, subverting the grid formed by the existing floor by re-marking the space with nature-derived Eastern Kulin patterns. As an organisational framework, these markings denote the placement of seating elements, allowing for gatherings ranging from yarns to fashion shows. The limited inclusion of text in the space is intentional. Rather than focusing on text to communicate meaning, visitors are invited to connect with the materials first; see them, feel them, smell them, get to know them. A research document is available online, providing further information.

Research Significance

Gathering Space: Ngargee Djeembana was the headline commission of the ACCA exhibition. The work was purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria and featured in ‘Melbourne Now’ 2023, an extensive cross-disciplinary survey of local contemporary practitioners. The work was awarded a commendation in the Small Project Architecture Category of the 2022 Victorian Architecture Awards and shortlisted in the Installation Design Category of the 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards. It featured in national media including The Age, Artlink, Artshub, Broadsheet, Open Journal and Ocula. The designers featured in ACCA’s podcast accompanying the show. 
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSouthbank, Vic, Australia
PublisherAustralian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
Sizeapprox 300 m2
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventWho’s Afraid of Public Space? - Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 4 Dec 202120 Mar 2022

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