Applying Indigenous design values leads to better project outcomes

February 27, 2023
Principal and Co-Head of Design in our Auckland Studio Tom Locke recently had the privilege of representing Warren and Mahoney at the World Architecture Festival. Here, Tom reflects on how embracing Indigenous world views helped to inspire the award-winning North East Link project.

The World Architecture Festival celebrates the very best of architectural design, and the projects and concepts addressing globally significant issues. Warren and Mahoney was in elite company at the festival, with five shortlisted projects at the 2022 WAF Awards held in Lisbon, Portugal.

This was significant for us, as an opportunity to connect our work with a global audience, share our thinking on the world stage, and demonstrate how deeply we care about architecture and the environment.

As always, it is inspiring to be immersed in the world’s best design thinking and the creative energy that comes with it. I am immensely proud that our North East Link project, the transformational $16B transport and landscape corridor in Melbourne, won its category for the best infrastructure concept globally.

The architectural and urban design response for this project was developed in collaboration with our design partners BKK Architects, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Jefa Greenaway, and Greenshoot Consulting for the Spark Consortium.

Underpinning our winning design solution was the International Indigenous Design Charter principles. This is the first mass-transport project ever to be guided by these insights. In collaboration with Jefa Greenaway and Greenshoot Consulting, the Charter helped inform the project’s core architectural concepts of ‘connecting to Country’, ‘caring for Country’ and ‘connecting people’. This approach inspired a more holistic view of the design and resulted in innovative and unexpected outcomes.

The concepts brought specific focus on decarbonising infrastructure, restoring landscapes, connecting communities, daylighting streams, and celebrating Country through architectural forms, including the pedestrian and wildlife bridges. It also brought specific focus to finding more sustainable ways to deliver and operate critical yet intensive infrastructure.

Architecture by its very nature shapes the built form and its environment, and engaging with the value systems of Traditional Owners and custodians of the land is not only the right thing to do, but it also leads to better project outcomes. The WAF Award is testament of this, and the quality of the North East Link’s design thinking.

I am incredibly excited to build on this insight as we continue to look to synergise world views, creating projects which are better for the planet and the communities they serve.