Research centre facilitates urban design project

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A snapshot of the Afghan Bazaar Precinct in Dandenong. Photo: Andrew Lloyd Photography.

Researchers in RMIT’s School of Art have teamed with local artists and government to create Melbourne’s first and only recognised Afghan precinct.

RMIT’s Centre for Art, Society and Transformation (CAST) facilitated a collaboration between CAST researcher Aslam Akram and HASSELL Architects to create the renowned Afghan Bazaar cultural precinct in central Dandenong.

The district includes approximately 20 shops selling speciality goods from the regions and communities of Afghanistan, ranging from authentic fruits and nuts to musical instruments.

The Afghan Bazaar was also recently awarded an Australian Institute of Landscape Architects Design Award for its thoughtful engagement with cultural context, history and tradition.

Mr Akram said he was very pleased to receive the award, as well as creatively contribute to the cultural destination.

“My happiness is not only for me but for my team as well, because art in public space is a team effort,” he said.

Mr Akram’s sculpture design was an abstract interpretation of a lamp’s base and overhead shade.

“In this work, the base represents the fuel source – human energy, knowledge, experience, histories and memories of Australian Afghan people,” he said.

“The top or transparent shade symbolises creation as a result of human energy, as well as friendship and respect between communities and cultures in multicultural Australia.”

CAST Director Geoff Hogg said the Afghan Bazaar project demonstrated a cohesive collaboration between artists, urban planners and architects.

“This project has grown out of particular cultural knowledge as well as an extensive consultation process,” he said.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to continue to work with Aslam who, after an extensive career working in Afghanistan and internationally, has now made an important contribution to art in public space in Australia.”

Mr Akram has been a longstanding CAST member since meeting Dr Hogg at RMIT shortly after he immigrated to Australia.

“My involvement with RMIT CAST has been amazing; I’ve worked many times with the team and it has always been a pleasure to work with them,” he said.

The Afghan Bazaar Project is also a finalist for annual local government accolade, the LGPro Awards for Excellence.

RMIT 19 January 2015

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