Weaving History with JLL and Maddison Gibbs

When JLL moved offices this year, they wanted to showcase their commitment to Reconciliation in a tangible way. Koskela’s design team facilitated a large-scale, custom-made artwork by emerging Gunu Baakandji artist Maddison Gibbs that brings together people, place, the past and the present.

With panoramic scenery of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, the view from global real estate firm JLL’s new office is the one that immediately springs to mind when you hear ‘Sydney’.

But ‘Sydney’ is young.

For millennia before colonisation, the Gadigal people – the Traditional Owners of the land now known as the ‘City of Sydney’ – sustained themselves and their communities with the abundant resources offered by the water and earth around Warrane (Sydney Cove).
As part of their Reconciliation commitment, JLL wanted to honour the history of the land that their new office sits on with a one-of-a-kind artwork. Koskela was engaged to help facilitate the project, and we immediately had an artist in mind: Maddison Gibbs, a proud Gunu Baakandji woman, activist and multidisciplinary artist from New South Wales.

Maddison started by exploring the fish traps that were traditionally used by the women around Warrane to catch fish, referencing themes of joy, togetherness, sharing stories and connection though food​.

Her original concepts looked like this:Maddison then collaborated with Koskela’s design team to further develop her idea, creating a striking abstract design that honed in on the net as a symbol of the dual histories of the land; the past and present stories of First Nations survival and resilience, as well as the multicultural society that Sydney now represents.

“Warrane is now made up of such a diverse range of people from all over the world,” Maddison says. “This weaving intertwines the people and their cultures and sews together shared histories.”

The artwork’s installation was tricky. Our design team needed to translate the work to laser-cut steel sheets, which had size limitations, and figure out how to hang the artwork so the fixings weren’t visible, but we were happy to deliver the final piece and fulfil the brief.

Maddison Gibbs’ ‘Weaving History’ was unveiled during NAIDOC week and sits alongside the rammed earth reception desk. It greets visitors and staff alike with an invitation for connection: to history, to each other, and to Country.

“This artwork and the story it tells is just one example of how organisations are using art and design to deepen Reconciliation efforts within their workplaces,” says Koskela co-founder Sasha Titchkosky. “Koskela was proud to facilitate this project as part of our mission to collaborate meaningfully with First Nations artists and introduce their cultural stories and practices into physical spaces around the country.”

As industrial design specialists with relationships with over 30 different First Nations communities and artist groups across the country, Koskela is uniquely placed to facilitate First Nations art collaborations that honour Country and deliver on organisations’ Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs).