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Penhale & Winter in collaboration with Sandra Harben
An invitation to sit and spend time in one of the city’s forgotten public spaces, the architectural form provides a space for people to gather, to engage in conversation or relax in reflection of the immediate area, amongst the ebb and flow of changing rhythms.
The installation is constructed of laminated board with text in Nyoongar and English cut (roughly) into it, probably the same text (or part of it) that is heard in the audio available at a number of locations, from the western end of Arthur Head (just beyond Victoria Quay) to a little beach below the cliff in Blackwall Reach, to the east.
The site is at the southern edge of the Beach Street Reserve in what the giveaway printed guide calls 'limestone amphitheatre'.
Update. I checked on a third visit to the installation in the Old Customs House that the text cut into the 'seating' is spoken there.
Update 2022. The installation is no longer in situ.
The installation won the Nicholas Murcutt Award.
Jury Citation and reference to place.
"A pure expression of collaborative intentions between the architect and the Whadjuk people of the Nyoongar nation, Gathering Place is a perfectly scaled, ephemeral civic work. Often, where a story is expressed literally, humility and wonder are lost. Here, the simple gesture of a curvilinear form, which makes a place for story, is a powerful, nuanced and never-ending proposition.
Like an everlasting and ancient songline inextricably linked to its cultural landscape, this work by Whadjuk Nyoongar Elder Sandra Harben with Penhale and Winter is an expression of the infinity of story, cultural memory and togetherness. Both the process and the outcome reflect Harben’s intent to “walk softly, walk slowly, walk quietly.” The design locates a Moreton Bay fig tree as a witness to the stories and gatherings.
This small-scale work is considered in every regard: detailed to be partitioned from modular, economical materials, and still surviving after its removal, as fragmented elements gifted to community and collaborators across the continent.
As is so often the case with works of architecture, what commences as a simple brief ends as a spatial revelation: a seat in the shade of a tree becomes a single, continuous love letter to Country. A thread of poetry engraved into the seat echoes the river, the serpent, the cosmos; the scale of this work is simultaneously intimate and immense. Gathering Place is a subtle, considered architectural wonder, even in its ephemerality."
Revell, Grant 2022, 'Longing and belonging', Fremantle Herald, 14, 21 July.
Photos met dank Roel Loopers.
Garry Gillard | New: 13 November, 2021 | Now: 4 November, 2022