The Bicultural Practice

‘Bicultural – having or combining the cultural attitudes and customs of two nations or peoples’ Oxford English Dictionary

During the course of the Practice Research program at RMIT University we investigated the workings of biculturalism in the specific context of our practice. We imagine the practice as a microcosm of biculturalism where two individuals (Tanya Kalinina and James McAdam) from two countries (Britain and Russia) have learned and adapted to each other’s cultures to practice architecture for many years as one entity.

We reflect on how this interaction began with a student exchange at the time of Perstroika, and how this developed into a scenario we refer to as ‘the stranger and the host’. We describe specific bicultural events – the Project Imagination seminar, the Time for Change exhibition, and a number of collaborative projects in architecture and education, and examine how these initiatives contributed to the development of the bicultural practice.

As part of this reflection we consider the traits and benefits of biculturalism as a form of international exchange with local context. We argue that the bicultural practice can overcome both the banality of global practice and the restraints of local context, by being able to view from a distance and focus in close, combining cross-cultural knowledge with specific constraints of location and cultural context.