a retreat + museum of australian indigenous culture
Palawa aims to help visitors reach an understanding and acknowledgement of diversity. No small pursuit, its location—Maria Island, acts as an important teacher as a symbol of Australia’s colonization. Through becoming intimate with the site and its spirit, visitors bear witness to a dark chapter of humanity—one which is an example of the human tendency towards fear of the “other.”
Palawa opens visitors to an understanding and recognition of past events that will shape how they later act in the world. The retreat enables people to move from ignorance, to statistical knowledge, to a deeper experience that aids people in realizing how to respond to both past and future interactions with those who are different from ourselves.
Indigenous forms and elements are brought back into the site, reclaiming the colonial settlement. The forms break through some of the existing walls and are a part of the landscape, allowing people to
recognize and appreciate the land.
The majority of the interventions inspired by indigenous forms are located outside as immersion in the environment and landscape is a stronger tie to Australian indigenous culture than indoor areas. There are multiple lookout points to enhance views of nature and experience the vastness of the landscape.
The meditation and teaching room is a space influenced by both western and indigenous contemplation cultures. Through meditation, visitors can reflect upon their learnings at the site and gain deeper understanding of the attitudes that shaped the colonial landscape they are immersed in. From here, they can better understand how to approach those who are different from themselves.
The museum and library provide an opportunity to learn from indigenous objects, art, and books. The form of the didgeridoo can be seen in the museum and is iterated throughout the site, often being superimposed on the colonial architecture as a way to reclaim the space.