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Classical Period of Australian Indigenous Interiors: Shaping of Space and Interiority

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 21:24 authored by Jacqueline PowerJacqueline Power
While building in indigenous Australian culture has been well researched from both an anthropological and architectural point of view, interiority (pre-European contact period) has remained largely un-researched. The implications of rock art (paintings and engravings) and the negative impact of confinement will be discussed from the point of view of interior architecture, in particular from the spatial ideas theorised within interior architecture. Art theory, anthropology and design representation will be drawn upon. ‘Cultural places,’ the stories revealed by the physical landscape and the evidence which has been left by indigenous occupants of the land, are revealing for the study of interiority. Dark magic rock paintings or ‘purri purri’ in the Laura Basin and sandstone engravings in the Sydney region reveal a strong spatial effect created by indigenous art. A whale engraving in North Sydney, one of the many whale representations in the region, presents an image for some contemplation in relation to interior architecture and its principles. The purpose of the image and representation of the ‘event’ will be considered. Whale bones themselves were a known material utilized in some classical indigenous building. Funerary practices involving the internment of bones within the enclosed space of logs is of importance in relation to the idea of death resulting from enclosure. In north- eastern Arnhem Land the Hollow Log or Bone Coffin ceremony still takes place. After the internment of the bones, the log is painted with clan designs and placed upright in the ground. The act of painting creates a strong linkage between the log and the human body, just as traditional architectural elements and human physiology are intimately connected.


Publication title

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal






School of Architecture and Design


Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd

Place of publication

Melbourne, Australia

Rights statement

Copyright 2009 Common Ground, Jacqueline Power

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past

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