National Arboretum Canberra


ACT Government


Canberra, ACT



Project Description

TZG, in association with landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean, won an Australia wide competition for the Australian National Arboretum and Gardens, on a 290ha. site of bushfire-damaged land north of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin.

The Arboretum is a collection of 100 forests, each home to a single internationally-endangered species. The species are chosen from the many thousands that are threatened world-wide, and curated according to colour of foliage, pattern of bark and leaf, filigree of branches, scent and texture, and suitability to the local growth conditions.

A simple formal geometry, developed from Griffin’s water axis, interacts with the landform on which it is laid. 250m wide forest bands are defined by native-planted clearings leading to the lake. Each Forest offers an immersive experience of a single species, a hermetic world which kindles the pleasure of being enveloped in a consistent world. Each Forest holds a viable population, creating a seed bank for each species’ native land, so that vulnerable and endangered species are preserved.

Defined gardens and event spaces are surrounded by the forests. With the provision of services, pavilion shelters and toilets these spaces have the potential to be booked for a wide range of events, as well as providing opportunities for themed gardens, sponsored plantings and temporary exhibits, performances, artworks and garden designs. The 1400m long Central Valley forms a focal clearing at the centre of the site, with a sculpted series of terraces linked by a cascading stream and a fully-accessible pathway.

The linear water feature feeds as the main water storage facility, located at the foot of the Central Valley the Arboretum. The dam and other water tanks will have a total capacity of 20 megalitres of recycled water, and will be a demonstration of water sensitive landscape design, showcasing contemporary design and ecological water recycling technology.

The Arboretum was opened to commemorate Canberra’s centenary in 2013, with all 100 forests planted. The forests are complemented by the Village Centre visitor’s centre, the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion reception centre, a regional Playground and the first of the many gardens planned for the site. A full road and pedestrian circulation system is operational, and a site-wide interpretation strategy underlines the projects long-term ecological benefits.


Peter Tonkin, John Chesterman, Juli Wolter, Wolfgang Ripberger, Trina Day, Elizabeth Muir


2014 Landscape of the Year, World Architecture Festival.
2014 Canberra Medallion, ACT AIA Awards.
2014 Sir John Overall Award for Urban Design, ACT AIA Awards.
2013 Romaldo Giurgola Award for Public Architecture, AIA ACT Awards.
2013 Excellence in the Use of Timber Products: Engineered Timber Products, Australian Timber Design Awards.
2013 Excellence in the Use of Timber Products: Australian Certified Timber, Australian Timber Design Awards.
2013 Best Central Region (ACT &NSW), Australian Timber Design Awards.
2013 Excellence in Timber Design Award: Public or Commercial Buildings, Australian Timber Design Awards.
2011 The Victoria Medal for Landscape Architecture, AILA Victoria Awards.
2005 Winner, Act Government ‘Shaping Our Territory” Competition.