Reflecting the Spirit of Country: AJC’s Vision for Ngurra Cultural Precinct

In 2022, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) launched a landmark design competition for Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct in Canberra. AJC, led by Peter Stutchbury Architecture and collaborating with McGregor Coxall and esteemed First Nations artists and educators, developed a visionary proposal for this culturally significant project.

Ngurra, meaning ‘home’ or ‘country’ in various Aboriginal languages, symbolizes the central role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s narrative. The precinct will feature a National Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Centre and a National Resting Place for repatriated ancestral remains and cultural materials. Located on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land, the site is historically rich and has nurtured Indigenous cultures for millennia.

The architectural design for Ngurra blends traditional and contemporary elements, utilizing natural forms, textures, and pathways to create an immersive cultural experience. It promises an environment of filtered light, simple forms, soft vegetation, running water, and subtle surprises, embodying both physical beauty and symbolic significance. Sustainability is central, integrating best practices in regenerative and self-sustaining architecture to ensure flexible, adaptive spaces that anticipate future changes. The design respects the interconnectedness of people and Country, emphasizing environmental stewardship and responsibility for future generations.

Collaborative Team

The team includes First Nations consultants like Uncle Dean Kelly, Professor Brian Martin, Professor Nathan Towney, Professor John Maynard, Professor Rhonda Wilson, and Adam Manning, whose expertise ensures cultural authenticity and sensitivity.

Architectural partners Peter Stutchbury Architecture and AJC bring experience and a commitment to sustainable design and First Nations values.

McGregor Coxall’s landscape architects provide a holistic design approach that integrates cultural stewardship and environmental sensitivity.

Freeman Ryan Design enhances the visitor experience with their expertise in museum and cultural precinct design, ensuring effective engagement and education.

Structural engineers Richard Green Consulting and TTW ensure the feasibility and durability of the innovative architectural solutions proposed.

A Vision for National Significance

The Ngurra Cultural Precinct is envisioned as a living entity, fostering a shared understanding of Australia’s history and future while celebrating First Nations cultural richness. It aims to be a place of learning, reflection, and connection, deepening the national narrative of what it means to be Australian. The design journey involved deep listening and respectful collaboration, resulting in a visionary and responsible design that sets a new benchmark for cultural and environmental architecture in Australia.

Rooted in History and Culture

Ngurra centres First Nations people in Australia’s narrative, creating a space of belonging, inclusion, and shared understanding. It serves as a vessel for truth-telling, reconciliation, and expression of stories of survival and resilience amidst colonization. The precinct honours the attachment to Country, the loss and grief from colonization, and the enduring strength and resilience of Indigenous cultures.

Indigenous Worldview and Reconciliation

Ngurra holds space for re-articulating memory and practice within a western framework, contributing to the broader Australian identity. It aims to be a place where all people, regardless of background, can come together, recognizing their shared humanity and working towards a united future.

Sustainable & Regenerative Design

Ngurra’s design maximizes human comfort while minimizing environmental impact, utilizing renewable energy, passive cooling and heating systems, and sustainable materials. It aspires to achieve high standards of sustainability and efficiency, reflecting a commitment to the welfare of both people and the planet.


Ngurra represents a bold vision for honouring First Nations people and their stories within the national landscape. It stands as a testament to the enduring connection to Country and the resilience of Indigenous cultures, offering a space for reflection, learning, and unity. Through Ngurra, we move towards a future where the contributions and significance of Indigenous communities are fully recognized and celebrated. We thank our extraordinary team for their vision and expertise and extend our congratulations to the winning team.


Our Team:

The architectural partners: Peter Stutchbury Architecture and AJC

First Nations consultants:

  • Uncle Dean Kelly
  • Professor Brian Martin
  • Professor Nathan Towney
  • Professor John Maynard
  • Professor Rhonda Wilson
  • Adam Manning

Landscape Architect + Urban Designer: McGregor Coxall

Visitor Experience: Freeman Ryan Design

Structural engineers: Richard Green Consulting and TTW

In a moment of reflection during our yarning, we returned to the truth – ‘responsibility’. Not to awe or other subjects but to all possible propositions, at this moment we realised the importance of climate, people, Country and function; the building must work now and beyond the future. When people experience Ngurra there will be a reflection and understanding of the spirit and truth in community. The platform and terrace serves all.

Peter Stutchbury (PSA)