The 5 of July 2022, the fraternity of architects lost a renowned scholar, to Elizabeth Grant.
Grant’s expertise in the field of architectural anthropology, with a particular interest in Indigenous architecture, and his in-depth exploration of the intersection between justice and criminology within architecture, have been recognized at the nationally and internationally through countless peer-reviewed books, chapters and journal articles, spanning many decades.
As a Churchill Fellow, Grant held professorships in the School of Architecture and Urban Design at RMIT University and Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra. Previously, she held academic positions at both the University of Adelaide and the University of Queensland, where her passion and enthusiasm influenced many students. Grant has also held positions in various humanitarian organizations in Australia, New Zealand and America.
Born and raised in Mount Gambier on the traditional lands of the Bunganditj (Boandik) people in South Australia, Grant has continued to be inspired and influenced by this evocative landscape throughout her research career. His German immigrant father instilled in him the value of education, and Grant was the first in his family to attend college. Her strong motivation for human rights led her to take a particular interest in institutional architecture. Through a deep commitment to the design of child care and courts, coupled with a lifelong interest in issues related to Indigenous housing, homelessness, and disability accessibility for Indigenous peoples, Grant’s work resulted in a legacy of fair design practice.
Grant has brought his considerable expertise to numerous government inquiries and corona inquiries, including the 2016 Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, which uncovered the shocking conditions faced by young Indigenous people in detention.
Grant was a prolific scholar, author and broadcaster, regularly editing and writing articles for the architectural press, including Architecture Australia and Australian Design Review. As editor of the Handbook of Contemporary Indigenous Architecture (Springer, 2018), she chose First Nations scholars Albert Refiti and Daniel Glenn, and University of Queensland researcher Kelly Greenop, as co-editors. Engaging in the practice, theory and educational directions of contemporary Indigenous design, this publication has proven to be a valuable resource for students, scholars and practitioners.
Grant believed in encouraging and mentoring Aboriginal students in built and natural environment professions. She did this through symposia, conferences and dialogues across the country, in addition to regular informal interactions in which she generously gave her time to help students with their studies, connect them with the industry and generally support them in the challenges.
In 2021, Grant embarked on an initiative with landscape architect and Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri public artist Paul Munaitya Herzich, titled “Spirit of Place, South Australian Contemporary Aboriginal Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Place-making Exhibition”, exploring the diversity contemporary design in South Australia that has engaged with both national and indigenous knowledge systems. Grant’s longstanding commitment to finding ways to engage with Indigenous voices, practice, and thought was evident to all who were touched by her and her work.
Grant is survived by her beloved husband Leonard (Tamahae) Cohen (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) and her three children, Todd, Tim and Paul (deceased). She was 59 years old.