3) Finding Form

Having fleshed out some of the physical elements and non-physical qualities we associate with the “Spirit of Australia”, the next step is to begin translating these essential characteristics into physical form. We will use again the 4 Elements as our template:



The Australian pavilion rises on top of a series of steps formed in the manner of contour lines, representing the Australian continental shelf. We have raised the floor level of the pavilion to allow for an internal lower level (explained in connection with the element of FIRE) and to be able to create an external approach designed and landscaped to reflect the red earth and ancient ruggedness of the Australian land mass.



The walls are all curved and meander around the building, following the stylized form of the Australian continent and coastline. They flow like a river, reflecting not only the fertile coastal belt, but also the creative processes of the great Rainbow Serpent, which is one of the central figures of aboriginal mythology and which represents the shaper of the land and guardian of the element of Water. Some of the upper windows invoke images of the Rainbow Serpent and other aquatic creatures of the dreamtime. The walls of course form the periphery of the building. On the Australian main land the periphery is where the majority of the population lives. The interior, as we know, is arid and scarcely populated. It is therefore very fitting to express the watery element and demographic life and profile of the nation within the alcoves and bays of the meandering walls. Having a floor plan that approximately matches the geographic footprint of the country also makes for interesting internal and external exhibition possibilities from a curator’s point of view.



We chose the shape of a bird’s wing to inspire the shape of the roof. A bird in flight is an image of grace filled movement within the element of Air and Light. The arcs of the wings in flight are molded by the currents of the air and are imbued with a quality of flexibility and lightness. This shape is also an outward picture of the qualities that are associated with thought, consciousness and freedom. In their ability to overcome gravity, birds symbolize freedom. Whatever outer constraints we may find ourselves in, we are free in our thoughts. In our thoughts and imagination we can roam and soar like a bird in the sky. A bird’s wing is designed to be carried by the air and at the same time it can play with the air and glide through and on top of air currents, spiraling into the heights and sailing over great distances. In the same way our thoughts can plumb the heights and the depths, survey the field and be carried by the thermals of the imagination and currents of knowledge. Clarity of thought or flashes of insight can cut through a problem like a bird’s wing slicing through the light filled air, fast and effortless.

The great white wings that form the roof of the pavilion are an expression of freedom of thought, of openness and flexibility and of the promise of the new consciousness of modernity that has come from abroad to create a new and inspiring future in an ancient land. From an architectural perspective the particular shape also allows for generous amounts of light to penetrate between the stepped roof sections, creating an interesting play of light and shade as well as the possibility of airy, light filled internal spaces.



In the heart of the pavilion is a spiral shaped tower or meeting room. Its central location, decorative detail and colored glass windows evoke images of the aboriginal Bora Ring (meeting place). It is an expression of the red heart, spiritual core and fire within. Geometrically this room is located within the coordinates of the “Southern Cross” whose geometry is mirrored in the structural beams and within the footprint of the exhibition area. The round walls of this central space lead down via a spiral stair case to a lower level that is designed as a darkroom and multimedia presentation area. At the same time the walls also spiral up to the roof. In fact the whole room and its walls form the structural anchor point that carries and balances the spine of the roof. In this way the room not only forms the heart of the pavilion but it also becomes the connecting link between the roof above, the ground floor and the underground level below. Symbolically and simultaneously it penetrates down to the inner fire and to the watery element which in continental Australia lies hidden underground in large artesian basins, while at the same time reaching up to where its transparent roof sections meet the sky. From there direct sunlight floods down into this central room and heart of the pavilion from where it then filters out via colored windows into the main exhibition space.


How the various architectural features described here are more specifically connected with the element of Fire and the spiritual dimension is discussed further in the next section.

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