Ngurra Cultural Precinct Proposal

AIATSIS / Canberra, Australia

In 2022, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) launched a landmark design competition for Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct in Canberra. AJC, led by Peter Stutchbury Architecture and collaborating with McGregor Coxall and esteemed First Nations artists and educators, developed a visionary proposal for this culturally significant project.

The choice of this site for the Ngurra Cultural Precinct highlights the importance that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders deserve to have a prominent location in the nation’s capital. The building and the landscape response need to reflect the local Ngunnawal and Ngamberi people but also incorporate and reflect all the different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups across the continent.

Ngurra is to be a place for all people to encounter, engage, and be changed by Australia’s stories, past, present, and future. It is a place to meet and experience a journey on and through Country.

Ngurra, meaning ‘home’ or ‘country’ in various Aboriginal languages, symbolises the central role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s narrative. The precinct will feature a National Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Centre and a National Resting Place for repatriated ancestral remains and cultural materials. Located on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land, the site is historically rich and has nurtured Indigenous cultures for millennia.

The architectural design for Ngurra blends traditional and contemporary elements, utilising natural forms, textures, and pathways to create an immersive cultural experience. It promises an environment of filtered light, simple forms, soft vegetation, running water, and subtle surprises, embodying both physical beauty and symbolic significance. Sustainability is central, integrating best practices in regenerative and self-sustaining architecture to ensure flexible, adaptive spaces that anticipate future changes. The design respects the interconnectedness of people and Country, emphasising environmental stewardship and responsibility for future generations.

First Nations consultants:

  • Uncle Dean Kelly
  • Professor Brian Martin
  • Professor Nathan Towney
  • Professor John Maynard
  • Professor Rhonda Wilson
  • Adam Manning

Congratulations to the winning scheme by Djinjama with COLA Studio, Hassell and Edition Office.

Year

2024

Collaborators

  • Peter Stutchbury Architecture
  • AJC
  • Freeman Ryan Design (Visitor Experience)
  • Richard Green Consulting and TTW (Structural)
Adrian McGregor
Talk to Adrian McGregor about Ngurra Cultural Precinct Proposal
Get In Touch
Children and an adult are engaged in an interactive exhibit within the Cultural Precinct, featuring Aboriginal art and traditional artifacts, including baskets, tools, and decorated wooden pieces. The display is illuminated, highlighting patterns and symbols on the table that tell stories of Ngurra.
At the Ngurra Cultural Precinct, a group of people in traditional attire perform a dance in a grassy area, surrounded by onlookers. The audience sits in a semi-circle, watching attentively. Overlaying the bottom portion of the image is a circular flowchart with words like "Deep Listening," "Focus," "Realisation," and "Healing.
A hand-drawn architectural sketch of a circular structure with multiple layers. The central area features red elements, possibly representing a pool or focal point, with surrounding walls and pathways. Reminiscent of the Ngurra Cultural Precinct Proposal, the outer area displays lines radiating outward.
Aerial view of the Ngurra Cultural Precinct's large, pyramid-shaped building with a central circular feature near a waterbody at sunset. Surrounding the pyramid are additional modern structures, parking lots, roads, and trees. The sky is colorful with hues of pink, orange, and yellow.

Through yarning, truthtelling and storytelling, our team created a modern narrative for country that foregrounds First Nations culture uniting all Australians in a special place at the heart of the National Capital.

Adrian McGregor - Founder & Chief Design Officer
A scenic lakeside view shows a winding path lined with trees and benches, leading to a body of water. A smoking campfire is visible in a small clearing to the left, while a modern building with a slanted roof, part of the new Cultural Precinct proposal known as Ngurra, is seen on the right. Distant hills frame the horizon.

McGregor Coxall provided a holistic design approach that integrates cultural stewardship and environmental sensitivity.

A striking, contemporary structure with a curved, rust-colored facade stands amidst a natural setting at sunset. A pathway leads to the Ngurra Cultural Precinct, with people walking nearby, and trees frame the scene. A bird flies in the distance, and the sky glows in warm hues.