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

By Jacqueline Power.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

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

Keywords: Interior Architecture, Indigenous Australians, Rock Engravings, Representation, Funerary Practices

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.357-368. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.590MB).

Jacqueline Power

PhD Candidate, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Jacqueline Power completed a degree in Interior Architecture, graduating with Honours Class 1. She is currently a PhD candidate in Interior Architecture at the University of New South Wales. Her PhD thesis is investigating Australian indigenous interiors. Jacqueline was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award to undertake her research.


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