The Village Centre at the National Arboretum, Canberra
From Tonkin Zulaikha Greer
The Village Centre is the main point of arrival for the National Arboretum Canberra, providing visitor orientation, information, education spaces and interpretation, together with retail and a high-quality café.
The building occupies the northern end of the Event Terrace, sitting below the site’s main east-west ridge, overlooking the sculpted landform of the Central Valley and the adjoining planted forests. It connects the central car park with the major Play Space and the Central Valley northwards and the Event Terrace, grassed Amphitheatre, Gardens and pedestrian pathway network to the south.
Visitors enter the Arboretum from the carpark through the new building, passing through the dramatic Entry cutting formed through the forested knoll and serving as the initial orientation focus of the building.
The heart of the building is its main vaulted space, which flexibly accommodates a range of functions, including exhibitions, functions, retail, the café and programmed activities. It focuses on the dramatic views southeast to Lake Burley Griffin and city of Canberra, and opens to the north and south to the sweep of the Event Terrace.
The architecture develops the long-standing tradition of significant garden buildings as transparent enclosures with dramatic internal volumes and sense of indoor-outdoor connection.
The exterior of the building is a sculptural form in the rolling topography of the site, contrasting low stone-clad wings with a high arching roof clad in weathered zinc, the form of which is inspired by the fronds of the adjoining forest of Chilean Wine Palms.
Internally, the innovative timber structure combines low environmental impact with a dramatic forest-like form, designed in a series of geometrical arcs. Slivers of glass define the roof shape towards the entry and light the arrival point inside.
The building incorporates a range of energy-saving measures, supporting the environmental value of the Arboretum as a whole, with a very low-energy envelope and structure.