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Architectus

Largest plant science facility in the Southern Hemisphere: now open

The new National Herbarium of New South Wales, designed by Architectus in collaboration with architect Richard Leplastrier and landscape architect Craig Burton, has officially opened.

The architectural concept was inspired by reference to nature, specifically to the protective encasings of the seed pods from the woody fruit of endemic Australian plant species. Just as the seed pod’s hard shell protects its seeds in a bushfire, the Herbarium’s outer layer protects the collection of precious and historical species. This world-class science facility features six impressive, rammed earth protective vaults and an innovative ‘fly-roof’ spanning 36 metres.

The joint concept design secures the preservation of over 1.4 million botanical specimens that underpin vital scientific research and give physical expression to the new Herbarium and its precious contents at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan in Western Sydney.

The state-of-the-art botanic science facility has been designed to safeguard one of Australia’s most significant collections of plant species. It serves as a critical resource for informing decisions regarding the conservation and management of the natural environment.

Architectus Principal, Luke Johnson, said: “Working with the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust has been a privilege. The Herbarium is an environmentally remarkable project as plants are central to our planet’s habitability and sustainability. The research and visitor interaction with the facility’s extensive botanical collection will open the door for positive environmental and societal outcomes well into the future.”

Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Denise Ora, said: “We are ecstatic to officially open the new National Herbarium of New South Wales and announce it has secured the conservation of some of the most significant botanical resources in the Southern Hemisphere.

“This new scientific landmark will lead the way for Australian plant science and research. During this critical time of climate change, now, more than ever, it is essential that we are all aware of the impacts on our environment and lead effective solutions to help protect the continuation of our natural world for future generations.”

Architectus hosted a series of collaborative design sessions with the Australian Institute of Botanic Science staff. The researchers, botanists and scientists ensured that the architecture would thoughtfully and expertly support the precise environmental conditions and quarantine procedures required to protect the botanical specimens from degradation and insect infestation. Another priority was to create a well-lit, open-plan office that connects easily with its surrounding gardens. The new building’s public interface allows the facility to promote its work to visitors.

The building’s design considers centralised ecologically sensitive and energy-saving features. Six protective vaults, made of thermal mass materials, safeguard the expansive collection of botanical specimens from extreme temperature events, such as bushfires. Reminiscent of seed pods, the fire-resistant vaults contain several critical layers of protection. This includes an insulated internal box and a thick external wall constructed from rammed earth, creating a symbolic connection between the Herbarium and the land.

There are several key environmental principles. An innovative, elegant, long-spanning ‘fly-roof’’ protects from rain and shades the vaults while providing greater cover on external terraces for visitors. The office roof supports a large-format photovoltaic array that will potentially generate solar energy for the facility. The roof also harvests rainwater for irrigation of living plant specimens.

The purpose-built facility joining the award-winning Australian Plant Bank and extensive Living Collection of native plants at Mount Annan reinforces the Australian Institute of Botanical Science as an international leader in plant science.

The National Herbarium of NSW reached practical completion in January 2022.
Learn more about the project here.

The National Herbarium of NSW
The National Herbarium of NSW