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Competition: Ian Potter National Conservatory, Canberra

The Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) has launched a competition for a new AUD$5 million conservatory in Canberra (Deadline: 5 May)

Backed by federal agency the Director of National Parks, the 500m² project will create a new glasshouse for native tropical flora including threatened species from the Kakadu and Christmas Island National Parks.

The proposed facility – to be known as the Ian Potter National Conservatory – is the centrepiece of a 20-year masterplan intended to boost visitor numbers at the attraction.

Canberra

Canberra

Source: CL and TZG

Artist’s impression of the planned Ian Potter National Conservatory

According to the brief: ‘The architecture of the conservatory and its landscape setting will inspire and delight, and establish a landmark brand for the ANBG. It will be a prime destination in the gardens, the one place that must be seen, the best place to take a photograph and a much-desired venue for functions and celebrations.’

Planned to complete in 2018, the conservatory is one of several planned improvements to the 90ha gardens which first opened to the public in 1970.

Located at the base of Black Mountain, the ANBG was part of the original masterplan for the capital city drawn up by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin in the early 20th century.

The facility features the world’s largest living collection of native Australian flora, but has seen a steady decline in visitor numbers over recent years.

Canberra

Canberra

ANBG masterplan by TCL and TZG

A $25 million regeneration masterplan – drawn up by landscape architect Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) – set out a turnaround strategy for the gardens last year.

Planned improvements include a new national seed bank, visitor centre, café, amphitheatre, wedding garden, eco-lodge and treetop ropes course.

Bushwalking trails to the nearby National Arboretum – also designed by TCL and TZG – will furthermore be included.

Peter Byron, the gardens’ general manager, commented on the contest: ‘The realisation of this project will expand the gardens’ capability to conserve and display the world’s most comprehensive collection of living Australian native plants and provide a unique tourism opportunity in the national capital.

‘The challenge of selecting the winner will be undertaken by an eminent competition jury chaired by award-winning architect Richard Johnson. All of the submitted designs will be exhibited for public viewing at the end of the competition process.’

Wendy Lewin of Wendy Lewin Architects, Arup Group principal Robert Care and Judy West – executive director at ANBG – will also feature on the judging panel.

Participating teams must be led by an architect registered in Australia and include an engineer, an exhibition designer and a landscape architect with knowledge of native plants.

Up to four teams will receive $10,000 each to participate in the design competition which runs from 16 May to 7 July.

The overall winner – set to be announced on 18 July – will win an additional $5,000 plus the design contract.

How to apply

Deadline for applications

4pm ACT local time 5 May

Contact details

conservatorycompetition@anbg.gov.au

View the competition website for more information

Canberra

Canberra

ANBG masterplan by TCL and TZG

Canberra

Canberra

The proposed ANBG visitor centre by TCL and TZG

Bombay Sapphire Distillery case study: Q&A with Eliot Potsma

The project architect at Heatherwick Studio discusses how the practice went about designing a conservatory in Hampshire, UK

Heatherwick Studio

What challenges did you face in combining function and aesthetics in your Bombay Sapphire gin distillery project?

A key source of inspiration was the great Victorian glasshouses that were used to house plants and botanical species. We not only wanted to draw design inspiration from these structures but also to emulate their function, using glass structures to house the plants employed in the distillation process.

Tropical plants are grown in the glasshouse with the hotter atmosphere, while the other, more temperate glasshouse grows Mediterranean plants and herbs. We also wanted to incorporate the glasshouses into the Victorian brick buildings that already existed on the site. This would enable the excess heat from the distillation process to pass from the existing brick buildings and be used to heat the glasshouses.

In order for the glasshouses to serve these purposes we had to grapple with incredibly complex geometries that took many months to calculate, engineer and refine. The finished built structures are made from 893 individually shaped, two-dimensionally curved glass pieces held within more than 1.25km of bronze-finished stainless-steel frames.

Hampshire

Hampshire

Source: Iwan Baan

Heatherwick Studio’s Bombay Sapphire Distillery

What material and structural techniques are available to conservatory designers seeking to achieve a similarly impressive visual impact?

We were fortunate enough to work with Arup on this project, which has lots of experience dealing with complex glass engineering. From the outset we were looking to push the possibilities of structural and curved glass. Updating the Victorian construction method with the latest steel and glass technology allowed us to create truly expressive three-dimensional curved forms with millimetre precision. The complex geometry was only possible with all of the glasshouse components working in combination with each other, the steel mullions stitching together the load-bearing pleated glass panels together forming an incredibly rigid structure.

What advice do you have for competition applicants on how to design landmark conservatories?

In approaching the design of a building like this, it is important to consider the context of the site, both environmental and historic, and the true requirements of the client’s brief. In designing the Bombay Sapphire Distillery we thought a lot about our client’s brand, which really expresses a sense of history, using a gin recipe that is over 200 years old. We also considered the key elements of the existing site which comprised of several handsome but disparate Victorian buildings, and a river which had been almost completely covered up in recent decades. We realised that we could open up the river which would unify the site and help to reinstate the Victorian buildings, restoring their sense of history and linking both these elements with the historic gin distillation process of the Bombay Sapphire brand.

Hampshire

Hampshire

Source: Iwan Baan

Heatherwick Studio’s Bombay Sapphire Distillery