The National Arboretum in Canberra is now open, some 100 years after first envisaged. Amelia Chandler reports
February 27th, 2013
An arboretum was part of Burley Griffin’s original plan for Canberra, Australia – a showcase for iconic tree species from around the world was just the sort of enlightened, noble and naturalistic feature for a master planned national capital. It is also a reflection of the importance that Burley Griffin (and his wife and collaborator, Marion Mahony) placed on landscape planning as the basis for the art of city making.
The disastrous bush fires of 2000 presented Canberra with an opportunity to rejuvenate and regrow – literally, from the ashes. With a long track record of design competitions, an International competition was announced in 2003. An Australian team made up of Taylor Cullity Lethlean Landscape Architects and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects won with the expansively titled ‘100 forests, 100 gardens’ entry.
The 250ha site is located on a hillside on the western shore of Lake Burley Griffin. It showcases stunning panoramas of the Lake and the city beyond. In February 2013 it opened its doors to the public as an exciting new education, tourism, research and recreation facility.
Today visitors to the Arboretum can walk and cycle five tracks and trails; a variety of specialist themed gardens; visit the ceremonial plantings located in the central valley or take in a number of impressive sculptures designed especially for the arboretum.
The Village Centre is touted as a must see for every visitor. Housed in an light filled structure with an elegant arched timber roof inspired by the fronds of a Chilean palm forest, the centre presents visitors with the stories of the Arboretum. At the centre, Thylacine interpretive designers in collaboration with Mental Media and Bluebottle have created a unique experience, transforming the traditional idea of ‘information centre’ and engaging people of all ages.
Tactile, human scaled and interactive exhibits such as ‘the grove’ and the ‘puffersphere’ explain and explore the role of the Arboretum in research and education. They tell the story of the site, the people who work here and of the challenges involved in bringing the Arboretum back to life.
An adventure playground is planned to open later in the year and of course, there will no doubt be many many more forests and trees to come too.
National Arboretum Canberra
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