A National Arboretum for the future

Friday 31 Aug 2012

Creating 100 forests with the world’s most endangered tree species

In 2004 following devastating fires in January 2003 and inspired by Griffins’ vision for the National Capital, the ACT Government developed a proposal for an International Arboretum to be established on a 250 hectare site six kilometres from the centre of Canberra, at the western side of Lake Burley Griffin. In 2004 the ACT Government held an international design competition. TCL + TZG have subsequently been engaged for the detailed masterplanning and first stage implementation of this important National institution.

As of 2012, 90 of the 100 forests have been installed. Detailed design is occurring for major visitor facilities, including a waterwise garden, picnic areas, a childrens playspace, roads and paths, interpretative signage, lookouts, a visitor centre and gardens. The vision for the Arboretum anticipates a viable public destination for the next 100 years. The masterplan is centred on creating 100 forests with the world’s most endangered tree species, interspersed with 100 gardens.

This immense undertaking will be supported by a host of visitor, educational and research facilities and is due for completion in February 2013.The arboretum offers the unique opportunity to redefine the meaning of public gardens in the 21st century. It grows out of the very real issues of sustainability, biodiversity and public environmental concern. The 100 Forests not only provide a unique experience- the pleasure of being enveloped in a forest of one species- but are also seed banks for the future.

Each holds a viable population to preserve vulnerable and endangered species. It is a strategy, a program and an ongoing event, not a design based chiefly on aesthetics. As it develops into the future, 100 forests / 100 gardens will build links across the world, an exchange of knowledge and actual plant material that will work towards reversing the planets loss of biodiversity. The project demonstrates leadership in masterplanning processes.

The plan is informed by a creative response to a brief but also illustrates a sensitive site appraisal and visual assessment as required by the National Capital Authority. The detailed analysis of the 250ha site has informed functional site planning to sensitively locate, not only the appropriate arrangement of species for the 100 forests but also visitor and management infrastructure including circulation routes, path networks, lookouts, visitor centre, event terraces, hotels and amphitheatres.

The appropriate arrangement of facilities has ensured the project maintains the uninterrupted forested backdrop to Canberra whilst nestling facilities into the distinctive site topography. Instead of seeing trees, and forests as resources, the vision by contrast, seeks to preserve, research and educate on the importance and value of trees to our local community and international community. The project sees landscape architecture as a research laboratory with opportunities and alliances with organisations across the world.

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