Sep Yama / Finding Country
PHAB Architects was one of 50 contributors to Kevin O’Brien and Michael Markhams’s “Finding Country Primer Exhibition” in Melbourne in 2009. The exhibition was later developed as an official Collateral Event of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Foreword (edited version taken from the exhibition catalogue)
This primer exhibition marks the beginning of an idea that pursues rights in relation to the spatial use of Country (aboriginal place). ‘Sep Yama’ literally translates from the Meriam language as ‘ground you cannot see’. The ground we can see is obvious. It is defined by the buildings, cities and states we live in. But Country is denied. ‘Finding Country’ can only exist when ideas about city (including its derivatives) and Country are brought into a dialectical tension. […]
An exercise was set to imagine the city with a 50% reduced population and an invitation extended primarily to the next generation of architects. The task was to empty a portion of the grid to a determined set of principles in order to Find Country. […]
Australian cities currently lack leadership in the way we think about planning, building and occupying them. Sep Yama / finding country fills this void, but it is the next generation that holds the real capacity for change. This is the next frontier.
Kevin O’Brien
Meriam Mer and Kaurereg people

finding Oxley Creek: Three Landscapes
This proposal attempts to find a new balance and interdependence between the suburban, agricultural and natural landscapes surrounding Oxley Creek, by introducing a creek-centric pattern of land use that distributes functions according to the site’s contours. The low flood plains surrounding the creek and its tributaries (up to 5m above sea level) are given over as green space, enabling natural cycles of flooding to slowly regenerate the area to its fertile pre-settlement condition. Residential lots are retained on the highest land (those above the 1974 flood peak of 11m), with housing in the lower areas removed. The remaining area (between 5 and 11m) is designated as agricultural land. Within this zone, the Rocklea Markets creates a nexus between the agricultural and suburban landscapes, and is imagined as the central focus of the area, representing a shift away from the typical retail / business / financial focus of the contemporary city.
PHAB Architects

Find out more about this ongoing project:

Project Details
Location: Don’t Come Gallery, Melbourne
Exhibition Date: 2008
Curators: Kevin O’Brien and Michael Markham (with contributions from Gina Levenspiel, Peter Steudle, Eugene Nemesi and Claire Humphreys)