Australian landscape architecture practice Taylor Cullity Lethlean is currently adding the final touches its latest park project in its home country, the National Arboretum in Canberra, which it created in collaboration with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects.
A sprawling 250-hectare site of 100 single species forests and 100 gardens intertwined, the arboretum is a stunning solution to the need for tree diversity protection and offers facilities that invite human exploration.
TCL's projects oscillate in scale and are a careful balance of sustainability and aesthetics. Its work ranges from masterplans to residential projects and public gardens, such as the spectacular Australia Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Cranbourne, designed in collaboration with Paul Thompson. 'Our ancient land holds many stories, a number of which are rarely visited by Australia's population due to the continent's vast scale,' says Simone Bliss, senior landscape architect at TCL. 'We search for the site's hidden narrative, abstract what we find and apply this process to the community's needs.'
The National Arboretum is now open, but like nature, the project keeps evolving. The firm's design for a themed playground, a whimsical celebration of nature's elegance, is the latest addition, featuring clusters of concrete Banksia plant cones and acorn-shaped houses clad in red cedar shingles. 'On a psychological level, it's about connecting children to nature. We hope that children grow as the forests do,' explains Bliss. Swathed in rustic, earthy tones and surrounded by indigenous flora, the space is a woodland delight rife with smells, sounds and textures that introduce children to the unique Australian landscape.
The practice uses an interdisciplinary approach that combines the positives of urban and natural life. 'Landscape architecture is still in its infant stages in the eyes of the public. It has the ability to morph into various forms, making it difficult to summarise,' she says. 'People are continuing to see the benefits of green infrastructure and the importance of public space is becoming more apparent.'