Planning for the National Arboretum actually began over 100 years ago when Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin envisioned an arboretum that would include iconic trees from all over the world. Then in 2001 bush fires decimated bushland, a pine forest and suburbs of Canberra. In response to the disaster, the ACT Government of Canberra decided to complete the original vision and build an Arboretum that would protect and showcase endangered species.
Tonkin Zulaikha Greer won an international design competition in 2005 with their concept of “100 forests and 100 gardens”. They were assisted in master planning and landscape design by Taylor Cullity Lethlean. In addition to showcasing endangered species, the National Arboretum also acts as a seed bank to ensure the survival of tree and plant species in case of disaster.
The National Arboretum opened officially to the public in February 2013 and so far it features 90 of the 100 forests, including four existing forests (not affected by the fires) that have been in place for as long as 80 years. The 250 hectare site features a water-wise garden, picnic areas, a children’s playspace, roads and walking paths, interpretative signage, lookouts, a visitor center and gardens. The visitor center by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer is a grand open space that offers visitors interpretation and education spaces along with a shop and a café. The dramatic timber structure combines low-impact design with forest-inspired architecture. Energy saving strategies are incorporated throughout that support the Arboretum’s overarching mission of protecting the environment.
Images ©Brett Boardman