Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Songlines: Preserving cultural heritage through architecture

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Version 2 2023-09-25, 02:08
Version 1 2021-11-22, 23:22
posted on 2021-11-22, 23:22 authored by Carr, Sheldon

In indigenous Australian culture, the ‘Songlines’ represent the routes across the landscape followed by the original ‘creator-beings’ of the ‘Dreaming’. The ‘Songlines’ describe the locations of mountains, waterholes, ravines, and other landscape features that were ‘created’ by the movements and interactions of the creator-beings. Throughout Australia’s vast history, the indigenous peoples have recited the Songlines as oral narratives for the next generation, while also using the Songlines to navigate across vast tracts of wilderness. But with the departure of a disenfranchised younger generation of indigenous Australians to cities and government settlements, the Songlines are at risk of being forgotten.  Songlines are not merely navigation devices. They act as mnemonics that define cultural values, indigenous laws and ancestral heritage. Stories of the ‘Dreaming’ acknowledge the past, present and future. As such, they are capable of re-engaging Indigenous Australians with a sense of place, heritage,and values, that are so menaingful to there culture and religion.  The sites for this design-led investigation are located in Arkaroola Sanctuary, Vulkanatha /Gammon Ranges and Ikara-Flinders Ranges - located in South Australia. This vast expanse of land is associated with the indigenous people known as the Adnyamathanha. The principal aim of this investigation is to conceive a series of collaborative architectural shelters that are designed and positioned in ways that can help reawaken, expose, and define characteristics of ‘Songlines’ for future generations.  The architecture will act as a reminder of cultural values, while serving as a framing device to reveal the dynamic landscape features that form the Adnyamathanha’s traditional Songlines. This is to safeguard knowledge, and re-awaken awareness of ‘Songlines’ for younger indigenous peoples who have left their homeland and tribal region. The architectural shelters, as points of pause along the Songlines, act as mnemonic devices that help keep alive a vibrant and fundamental sense of cultural identity and place. The architectural interventions seek to diffuse boundaries between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous cultures – given the current integrated context of Australia.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Brown, Daniel