Architecture, Multiculturalism and Cultural Sustainability in Australian Cities

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The way that the built environment represents and accommodates people of different cultures is an important facet of developing a holistically sustainable future. Architecture intervenes, maps and signifies and in doing so it constructs identities. It helps to shape how we know the world by mediating power, social relations and cultural values. Events such as the settlement, inhabitation and establishment of diasporic communities involve the occupation of space. Architecture provides the armature of this space, its form and its image. Building is a potent means by which identity can be formed. A most significant part of people’s well-being and capacity is their participation in literally building communities. This paper will illustrate this issue through discussion of contemporary Australian cities. The buildings of a wide variety of immigrants to Australia have since the 1950s contributed greatly to the changing nature of its cities. They are the physical manifestation of the great demographic changes that have occurred across the nation during this period. The combination of people of different backgrounds and cultures lends a unique quality to Australian built environments, and this needs not only be understood but celebrated, as they are contributing to the development of Australian urban culture. Increased knowledge and understanding of the impact of immigration and multiculturalism on our built environment will add substantially to understanding of the diversity of Australia’s cultural heritage, and the potential of future planners, architects, and members of the general public to create inclusive and dynamic Australian cities.