The Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre (AACC) in Adelaide, South Australia has moved a step closer to construction following the submission of plans based on the updated concept design to the State Commission Assessment Panel.

Concept designs for the AACC by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and Woods Bagot were first released earlier this year and subsequently revised based on feedback from the Aboriginal Reference Group (ARG), which provided strategic direction through a collaborative design process to ensure the establishment of the Centre was in line with cultural expectations.

Grounded on Kaurna land at Lot Fourteen on the former site of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the design narrative of the building is based on the deep Aboriginal connection to country, place and kin, with connected layers being the foundation of the design.

Providing a platform for First Nations people to share their cultures and tell their stories, the AACC will include spaces for permanent and visiting exhibitions, cultural performances, meetings and ceremonies, gatherings and events, and a café and retail space.

Describing the AACC as a new paradigm in cultural space design, DS+R partner Charles Renfro says, “Through deeper and wider engagement via the Aboriginal Reference Group, our design speaks to and embraces Aboriginal shared values and references forms found in Aboriginal art and cultures.”

“Wholly connected to the landscape, the design embeds the lower ground level into the site and includes an outdoor gallery cantilevered over the terraced landscape,” Renfro says.

Following the revisions, the feature gallery is now completely outdoors, the building more decisively originates from the earth with columns that appear to grow from out of the ground, and the landscape uses a combination of plants and vegetation, paving, walls, terracing, seating and a range of water features to take on more fluidity. Interconnected pathways winding around the building and flowing into smaller, quiet spaces throughout the site will enable visitors to immerse themselves in the natural surrounds.

“This project is a path to reconciliation, an important moment in setting the future for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” Woods Bagot principal Rosina Di Maria says.

“The design team’s role has always been to listen to and translate the aspirations and ambitions of the ARG into a design response. The architecture evokes a sense of welcome to all visitors – particularly First Nations peoples – and a connection to culture offered through the human experience,” Di Maria says.

An Adelaide City Deal project, the $200-million AACC project will receive up to $85 million from the Australian Government towards construction, with the Government of South Australia providing $115 million in additional funding. Construction is expected to begin later this year, with the opening scheduled for early 2025.

Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot