Immigration Place, winning competition entry, 2015

Immigration Place Announcement

About the Project (Immigration Place website)

Proposal Description:

In the Australian context, migration officially began in the eighteenth century with the arrival of settler colonies. However, movement of people across the continent extends far beyond this. Many Aboriginal Australians believe they descended from Africa, migrating to the Australian continent over forty thousand years ago. For other Aboriginal Australians, the land is the place of birth and rebirth—creation and dreaming stories detail the ways in which the Australian land and its first peoples were formed. 

According to the traditional owners of Immigration Place, the Ngambri people, this site in the Parliament House precinct rests on the womb of a Ngambri spirit woman. This notion of a womb, coupled with the sites close proximity to the Tent Embassy, forms the first and overarching layer of migration history in our proposal, indeed it is the envelope that houses this history.

The changing narratives of migration, from British migration that began with the First Fleet in 1788 through to the post-war period of mass migration with the first non-Anglo Celtic cultures, cannot easily be told in a linear way. Migration is a highly complicated and affectively fragmented experience. For all the many happy and affirmative migration stories one can also frequently describe migration experiences as unsettling and difficult, sometimes even traumatic.

We express this layered and fragmented story of migration in a range of symbolic ways. 

In plan our proposal can be approached from a number of key points from the outside, across a field of native grasses. Once inside these break into multiple, rippling pathways that wind around the striated womb like columns and shallow pools of water and landscape. As one moves through the space a proliferation of tiny speakers inside the structure quietly broadcast spoken word recordings of the collected migration stories. 

The sine wave form of the shelter, while signifying the idea of the indigenous womb or tent, is conceived also as both the rolling turbulence of the ocean and as a type of cloud, and in this way reflects different modes of migratory travel. This shape is constructed using thin layers of steel laid one on top of the other at various spacing’s. This stacking of thin layers connects the structure back to the notion of the archive, as well as reinforcing ideas about the density and complexity of our migration stories. These stacked layers shift perceptually as one moves around it, past it or through it, allowing its appearance to constantly shift. 

Our team has produced a place. It is one that visitors can apprehend from the car from Kings Ave and also on foot, either as individuals or as a small congregation. It is simultaneously an object and a dense, dynamic and celebratory gathering place. 

Jury Report: 

'There is an exceptionally lyrical and powerful quality to this proposal that fascinates, provokes interest and demands exploration. The sculptural expression presented interprets and melds immigration with our indigenous history and looks forward to a progressive Australian future. The form and materiality inherently suggests movement and is evocative of an ancient Australian place and time. The design team suggests that ‘the changing narratives of migration…cannot easily be told in a linear way. Migration is a highly complicated and effectively fragmented experience’. The proposal is replete with subtle symbolism – accessible from all directions, open and embracing, sinuous and with seemingly unprescribed pathways leading to new experiences and opportunities for reflection and delight. The sine wave form adopted simulates with conviction ‘turbulence, ocean, vacillation and waves of migration’. In the context of the migration experience, the shape evokes the oceans that were crossed, the emotional ups and downs of this transformative experience, the ripples of change that travel down the generations, and the Australian landscape. 7 Speakers within the structure will ‘quietly broadcast spoken word recordings of the collected migration stories. The thin visual stacking of the forms is intentionally suggestive of archives and the whole composition is an embracing and comforting place – if somewhat strange and unknown. The ground plane of paving, ephemeral ponds and fields of grasses sits comfortably within the Canberra urban landscape. There is no centre yet there will be multiple gathering places and points of focus for celebration. There is ample opportunity for light, audio and story projections on the forms and for the inscription of names within the paving or at the base of the ’waves’. The Jury strongly supports this proposal for Immigration Place for development and construction and congratulates the team on their design concept.'


Team: Callum Morton (Artist), Andre Bonnice (Monash Art Projects), Nigel Bertram (NMBW), Charlotte Day (Curator) Bob Earl (Oculus), Paul House (Ngambri Custodian), Nikos Papastergiadis (Writer, Theorist), Daniella Trimboli (Writer, Theorist)

© Monash Art Projects