Penrith Lakes: Staging Landscape Artifice and Aboriginal Heritage in Western Sydney | Jennifer Ferng
Inaugurated by the Penrith Lakes Development Corporation in 1981, this two thousand hectare site located near the foot of the Blue Mountains, meant to replicate the precontact Cumberland Plain, is slated for urban development and parkland recreation over the next twenty years. This reconstructed riparian landscape is part of extended terrain around the Nepean River that possesses a significant Aboriginal history, and as a former site of gravel and sand quarrying, it boasts a fifteen-kilometer gravity-fed “flow and filtration” system that sustains a complex series of habitat corridors and interconnected lakes, ponds, and wetlands. This case study of the Penrith Lakes Scheme tries to answer two main questions: What is at stake in creating an artificial landscape that simulates nature in the midst of a major urban growth area? And, second, can this naturalistic veil promote a deeper recognition of Aboriginal histories and the conservation of Aboriginal heritage? Design, in fact, can activate latent narratives in landscapes such as Penrith Lakes, and such narratives are responsible for much of the cultural work completed by preservation professionals.
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