Architectus acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and work.

We honour their unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, waters, sky, and communities and their rich contribution to society.

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The lines of time: Ancient layers of Country in a future-focused design

For the Kaurna people, the location of Flinders University’s Health and Medical Research Building (HMRB) is Rainbow Country – a place where nature has recorded its history as lines of time over millennia.

This ancient story of the land was a gift shared with our design team and collaborators by Dr. Uncle Lewis, Flinders University’s Senior Elder on Campus and an influential figure in Adelaide for his decades of work establishing a Kaurna presence in the city’s cultural landscape. 

Insights and guidance from Uncle Lewis – and the Cultural Narrative and Indigenous Art Advisory Panel at Flinders – had a profound impact on the creative process and outcome for this new, world-class research facility. 

“This is Rainbow Country. It’s about the land…Follow the lines of the rainbow sands.”

Dr. Uncle Lewis Yarlupurka O’Brien AO, Kaurna Elder

The site’s history and culture are woven through every element of the project, from the terrain-like architecture to the incorporation of natural materials and artwork to the way the building embraces local Kaurna landmarks. 

It’s a powerful and authentic expression of how age-old knowledge and connections to Country can enrich the design of a place that embodies the future. 

Architecture emerging from the land

The HMRB is the first building on the Flinders Village campus in Bedford Park, south of the city at the foot of the Adelaide Hills.  

For the Kaurna people, it’s a significant, multi-layered site of the Dreaming and the ancestral being, Tjilbruke. And their community continues to have a strong, reciprocal relationship with the land, waters, and associated stories of this special place.  

On a sloped site with 14-metre fall, the new building was designed to emerge naturally from the land – an outcrop in conversation with the geological layers of Rainbow Country. The architecture’s harmonious relationship with the unique landscape fosters a sense of history and place.   

Our design builds on the connection to those sedimentary layers by drawing on natural materials and earth tones. The façade system features terracotta-coloured louvres and blades, with the exterior base composed of ochre-coloured masonry, concrete and metal.   

On the upper levels of the HMRB, openings in the façade and positioning of the blades frame views of significant Kaurna landmarks – the Patawalonga River, Tjilbruke Springs, and Mount Lofty and Mount Bonython. 

Levels reflecting layers of Country

Inside the facility, the many layers of Rainbow Yarta are reflected in the changing colour palette as you move vertically through the 10-storey building. Inspired by the flow of water and people, the interiors also feature organic forms and tactile materials, with references to land, sea, and sky connecting the building’s researchers and visitors to Country – the expansive landscape outside their walls. 

With the facility focused on expanding knowledge to improve health and wellbeing, the experience and lessons of First Communities are conveyed through commissioned artwork both inside and out the HMRB. 

The artwork includes a Kaurna Kuri design by Aboriginal artist James Tylor, featured on the façade and pressed into the ceiling panels on the second level of the building. Patterns in the work represent the points where two or more songlines converge and different levels of knowledge meet in one place. 

In the entry to the building, a hanging artwork, Yamalaitji ngurikawi wurri (first blossom acacia seed), recalls the organic shapes of the acacia plant and reflects the medicinal traditions of First Nations peoples, developed over tens of thousands of years. The piece was created by Ngarrindjeri artist Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie and collaborating artist Karl Meyer. 

An Indigenous medicine garden also plays an important role in the building’s landscape. 

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