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Mike Mossman

Architecture and Third Space: Negotiating Traditional and Settler-Colonizing Spatial Practices

This presentation analyzes architectural agency that impacts Indigenous Australian communities, cultures and practices. It focuses on Third Space concepts as an analytic framework to foreground the connections and differences between perceived binary and non binary spatial perspectives so as to enable innovative, critically engaged discourse. The Third Space is a concept developed by Bhabha and Soja. In architecture, it can be utilized to critique historical, social and political frameworks that condition the communication of dialogue when designing for, on behalf of, and by marginalized communities. Third Space generates alternative dialogues that can lead to more appropriate forms of agency, calibrated to distinctive Indigenous worldviews and life worlds. The Third Space in architecture is an ‘in-between’ zone produced by oppositional actors to articulate and negotiate cultural meaning in a project. This presentation will ask a key question: Can concepts of Third Space promote a contextualized emancipatory framework of engagement between cultures of difference that can be applied to architecture, design and planning? From an Indigenous standpoint, the presentation will describe spatialized qualities of pre-colonization Indigenous Australian societies relative to the concepts of Third Space, how it can enable meaningful wayfinding dialogue to add richness within architectural and planning exercises, and how it can facilitate future conversations on architectural strategies to privilege marginalized voices affected by settler-colonizing practices.


Michael is an Indigenous Australian from Cairns with Kuku Yalanji and Warangu ancestry. He is currently teaching and researching at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, where his interest is to situate architecture in the broader Indigenous scholarship environment.
As a doctoral candidate, his thesis focuses on the Architecture and the Third Space, in-between zone of negotiation between Indigenous and Western viewpoints. His thesis aims to promote engagement methods that historicize and politicize worldview commonalities and differences, and strategize future ways of being, knowing, doing and learning relative to architecture.

Desna Whaanga-Schollum