Dr Shaneen Fantin, James Cook University (paper): Reminding me of home. Culturally responsive design...

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Dr Shaneen Fantin, Director, People Oriented Design and Adjunct Associate Professor: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University delivered this presentation at the 5th Prison Planning, Design, Construction and Maintenance conference. This conference follows the production of existing, developing and future correctional facilities across Australia. For more information, go to http://www.informa.com.au/prisonplanning2013

Transcript of Dr Shaneen Fantin, James Cook University (paper): Reminding me of home. Culturally responsive design...

  • 1. 5th Prison Planning, Design, Construction and Maintenance 9-10th Dec, 2013. Melbourne Session Title: The Plan Phase: what do we need and where? Dr Shaneen Fantin, Director, People Oriented Design and Adjunct Associate Professor: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland. 3.50 4:30pm Reminding me of home. Culturally responsive design of landscape and external environments in Indigenous secure and health facilities. Abstract In many states of Australia, Aboriginal prisoners make a large portion of the prison population. In Queensland it is about 30% (ABS 2013), but in prisons in remote areas such as far north Queensland the percentage is much higher. How can the landscape and outdoor environments in such facilities be designed to recognise and support Aboriginal cultural and social practices? Culturally and socially responsive site planning and design can create opportunities for rehabilitation of prisoners through re-connecting with country, enabling Aboriginal social practices and maintaining ethno-botanical knowledge. A number of case studies will be provided. 1.0 Introduction Australia is a vast country with a relatively small Indigenous population, less than 3% (ABS 2013). However the representation of Aboriginal people in prisons in Australia is approximately 30% (ABS 2013). The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) stated that [t]here are important cultural differences between Aboriginal and nonAboriginal detainees for which accommodation can, and should be made in the context of custodial procedures and cell design (Johnston 1991 Vol 3 p.235). This paper is written from the perspective of architecture and people-environment studies, and how culturally responsive design of built environments and landscape can create supportive and potentially rehabilitative environments for users. It draws on literature from People Environment Studies, Environmental Psychology and Intercultural Design Practice (Rapoport 1982, Martin and Casault 2005, Bechtel and Churchman 2012). In some parts of the paper I use the term Aboriginal and in other parts Indigenous. This is intentional as one case study is from remote Western Australia where the use of the word Indigenous is not appropriate. Whereas the other case study is from far north Queensland where Indigenous is accepted as a term and regularly interchanged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. I am an architect with a PhD in Architecture and Aboriginal Environments and have been working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on health, housing and secure projects since 1995. I am predominantly a practitioner, but with a keen interest in research and analysis. Todays paper presents two case studies. One of a prison and one of a health facility which incorporate design principles that aim to provide supportive environments for Aboriginal inmates and patients. The key questions that are at the forefront of this work are, Why should we consider cultural imperatives in the design of custodial and health facilities? 1
  • 2. 5th Prison Planning, Design, Construction and Maintenance 9-10th Dec, 2013. Melbourne Session Title: The Plan Phase: what do we need and where? Dr Shaneen Fantin, Director, People Oriented Design and Adjunct Associate Professor: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland. How can we respond to social and cultural imperatives of Aboriginal people in the design of built environments? And, Is there any evidence to suggest that culturally responsive design contributes to rehabilitation and wellbeing? 1.1 The relationship between culture and design Culture is conceptualised by many scholars as existing in both cognitive and physical dimensions; it encapsulates everything one thinks and feels, and how one behaves or represents thoughts and feelings in a social and spatial environment. Culture is learning: every individual learns from his or her environment how to speak, behave and think. All of the influences and experiences in a persons life contribute to their self and the cultural framework from which they view and interact with the world. Amos Rapoport (1982, 1986), who has undertaken extensive studies on the relationship between built form and culture, states, Culture is ultimately translated into form through what people do as a result of what is in their heads and within the constraints of their situation (Rapoport 1986:162). What this suggests is that environmental influences that affect peoples thought and behaviour patterns can be seen in their spatial and built environments. Robinson (1989:253) states that built forms are manifestations of culture; they are mirrors of cultural values and allow people to compare cultural aspirations with achievements. The relationship of built form and culture can be expressed in a number of ways: as a symbolic representation of beliefs and practices, in response to spatial activities which are framed by cultural institutions, or by a combination of both symbolic and spatial structuring (Rapoport 1986). I have applied the expression Cultural Imperatives to those activities and symbols that are framed by cultural institutions. For the past fifteen years I have been slowly, through participatory observation and intercultural practice, observing and recording Cultural Imperatives for the design of built environments with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Each project, people and location is different and its own imperatives are derived from the development of a design brief. However, the connection with the Australian landscape, or Country, and Aboriginal religion and identity is consistent on every project I have worked on. It is important to recognize that built form (and dominant cultural frameworks) also influence culture; it is a two-way reflective relationship. For example a persons experience of different physical environments and cultures can subconsciously and consciously affect how they interpret their own environment. If an environment inhibits a preferred cultural practice it might be seen as a vehicle for culture change or adaptation. Peoples creation of and control over their own living environment has consequences for their well-being and identity (van Staden 1984, Reser 1991 and Prussin 1995). If individuals feel that they have control over their environment and how it is structured (physically, socially 2
  • 3. 5th Prison Planning, Design, Construction and Maintenance 9-10th Dec, 2013. Melbourne Session Title: The Plan Phase: what do we need and where? Dr Shaneen Fantin, Director, People Oriented Design and Adjunct Associate Professor: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland. and cognitively), and if the environment supports individuals belief systems then it contributes to the maintenance of individual health and well-being. 1.2 Why should we consider cultural imperatives in the design of custodial and health environments? Stress has been described as a response stimulus which results from pressures and forces on people and things (Oxford Dictionary 1973, Memmott 1988:34, 1991, Reser 1991). Reser (1991: 249) states that people experience stress through: The pressures and demands of transition; The experience and impact of discrimination and prejudice; Marginal social and economic status; The condition of the physical environment in which people live, and; Poor health. People also experience stress through conflict and lack of personal control over situations and environments. Being stressed can create anxiety, irritability, and may lead to conflict and health related problems. Ongoing stress can contribute to mental illnesses such as depression, neurosis, substance abuse, and, potentially, suicide. (Reser 1991, see chapter 7 on sorcery). Labelle Prussin (1995:205) supports Reser when she says, It is a well-established fact that control over ones environment, whether perceived or real, is an essential component of environmental satisfaction. Control over ones self-created architecturally defined space, particularly when it is so imbued with meaning and emotion, is essential for self-identity and mental health. Studies in cross-cultural psychology by DAndrade (in Kitayama & Markus 1994:98) support the notion that preventing individuals from achieving culturally prescribed goals and following cultural directives can produce anxiety. If the medium inhibiting the achievement of these goals is a physical environment, then the environment will create stress for the occupants and users, and in turn they may deflect their anxiety onto their physical environment. Physical environments, such as buildings, are not entirely responsible for creating anxiety and stress in individuals, but can contribute to other feelings of a loss of control. In the creation of environments that recognise and support positive existing social and cultural practices and create some comfort we are trying to reduce stress and enable mental and physical rehabilitation. 1.3 How can we respond to social and cultural imperatives of Aboriginal people in the design of built environments? In some societies, such as Australian Aboriginal society, the translation of beliefs into spatial and built forms may not be easily recognizable from a non-Indigenous perspective. They are often subtle and available to keen observers and participants in Aboriginal culture and society. Traditional Aboriginal Australian lifestyles did not require monumental 3
  • 4. 5th Prison Planning, Design, Construction and Maintenance 9-10th Dec, 2013. Melbou