Held annually, the Australian Timber Design Awards promote outstanding timber design in the built environment and are open to landscapers, builders, designers, architects and engineers across the country. The winner of the 2009 grand prize went to Brian Hooper Architect and m3architecture (architects in association) for the Tree of Knowledge Memorial in Barcaldine, Queensland.
The scale of the structure and the form created by the hanging timbers reference the tree’s canopy as it would have been during the 1890s. The external timbers are “charcoaled” to create a veil around the space, creating the perfect ambience for a place of memory and mourning.
The veil hints at what will be experienced when you enter the memorial, but it doesn’t fully reveal the impact of the space. It is not until you enter the structure and stand beneath the shade of the “tree” and experience firsthand the vaulted effect and sculptural nature of the canopy that you can fully appreciate what the architects have created.
The Tree of Knowledge Memorial is constructed of more than 4913 individual timber members (3449 for the suspended canopy; 1464 for the external façade or veil), supplied by Kennedy’s Aged Timbers. All the timber is Forest Stewardship Certified (which means it’s guaranteed sustainable, renewable or recycled) with the majority of the timber coming from redundant telephone poles.
The structure, including the suspended timbers, is rated to a 50-year maintenance-free period, minimising long-term maintenance costs for the local council and community.
Glass also plays a key role in the memorial, with the root ball, which was salvaged intact with the trunk, displayed through a glass floor. There is also a glass roof which, in tandem with the timber veil, provides protection from long-term exposure to wind-driven rain and direct sun, which is required to maintain the relic tree.