Bilya Koort Boodja is a centre for Indigenous culture and environmental design, made to celebrate the Ballardong Nyoongar people of Perth.
In 1833 the town of Northam was gazetted, causing the Ballardong Nyoongar people to suffer immense persecution and violence until 1841 when relations became more peaceful. However, in 1905 The Aborigines Act was passed, allowing the State to control the ‘protection, control and segregation of Aboriginal people’, and in 1933 the entire Indigenous population of Northam was exiled from their country to the Moore River Native Settlement, some 200km away. It wasn’t until 1954 that these laws were repealed and the Ballardong Nyoongar people could return to the town.
In 2016, the Shire Council was able to obtain funding to create a new cultural centre to promote and support the Ballardong Nyoongar people of the Avon Valley. IPH and interpretive designer Thylacine collaborated with the Indigenous community to design a place to teach Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people about Nyoongar culture and the environment.
A working group consisting of Elder representatives and key families in the region worked with the design team to generate a brief for the building, decide how it would function and how Nyoongar culture would be presented. According to the architects, the community wanted a building that was unlike any of the European buildings in the town; a place that responded to the landscape and revealed it through the eyes of the Aboriginal people.
A new cultural centre
The centre performs multiple functions:
- It contains an exhibition of Balladong Nyoongar culture;
- An information centre about local Aboriginal culture and sites for visitors;
- A multi-purpose function centre that can be used to teach school groups and others about Nyoongar culture and the environment; and
- Serves as a focal point for the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families of the town to gather and celebrate Nyoongar culture.
The centre presents as two curve-linear black forms with a meandering slatted timber screen facing the river to the west. These forms are perched on columns above the 1:100 year floodline, linked to the ground plane with a long ramp and staircase sheeted in translucent polyester cladding that creates a windbreak and shading device.
Afternoon sun and heat load is managed by a long timber screen, made from vertical planks of local recycled Jarrah timber, arranged to respond to the experience of looking at the river through the fine woodlands that line the banks of the river.
Windows and openings reference the idea of a “cultural compass”, gesturing across the landscape to visible hills and distant cultural sites, assisting visitors to understand the Ballardong country beyond the immediate place.
- Walling, Roofing, Soffit - Lysaght Colorbond Spandeck Profile, Monument
- Ramp screening and balustrade - Ampelite Webglass GC
- Western Australian Recycled Jarrah - Balcony Screen and Balustrade