Architecture - Masters

the Institute of Sustainable Timber

Timber plantations are essential to our construction and building industries, along with the economies of towns built around our plantations. However, not only are they further destroying the critically endangered subtropical lowland rainforest in the Imbil State Forest, but they are also threatening the homes and eco-systems of a huge number of species. The Institute of Sustainable timber is designed as a research centre created to discover how we can meet our timber needs in a way that supports a more diverse and natural habitat. By inviting a number of groups of people to collaborate, the centre can begin to research and find better ways of providing timber.

the institute of sustainable timber

The concept for this building was formed by combining three sectors: Gubbi Gubbi, researchers and tourists and connecting them with their one common link: the rainforest. Using this as the central ‘heart of the concept and building’, I began to form the buildings. The overarching metaphor for the design is that of the Araucaria Cunninghami bark. Bark has numerous purposes, including providing homes for small organisms and offering protection. In a sense, these ambitions are reflected in this centre. After visiting the site, I was intrigued with how some pieces of bark fell off in near-rectangular sheets while other smaller pieces peeled off in curling strips.

This is what formed the initial and main shape of the building. The primary, rectangular building acts as the main research hub, while the two smaller peeling shapes become the education and Gubbi Gubbi centres.

The central courtyard provides a space for collaboration and connection between the three buildings but also encourages native plants to grow and becomes an opportunity for a native edible garden. Since it represents warmth and security, the central walls are all thick, rammed earth which provides insulation and an enclosed envelopment, while the exterior walls are a lighter, more ‘bark-like’ material.

Wrapping around the rear and then peeling away form the front and sides is a bark-like texture made from discarded pieces of copper offset from the walls. This provides shading and unique interactions with the façade, particularly in the atrium which is exposed to the ‘bark’ at the rear and is open to the elements on both ends.

The roofs link the individual buildings and encourage plants to hang off the edge, connecting the buildings firmly to the earth and feeling like a natural extension. The one exception to this is the research roof, which lifts in a way reminiscent of the peeling of bark.

The site was carefully chosen and sits just south of Kenilworth, becoming a destination for tourists and researchers alike. The site is adjacent to a small rest stop and park, which is linked to the Fig Tree Loop Walk, which is a short, fully accessible walk guiding visitors on a quick loop through some of the beautiful sub-tropical rainforest this centre is aiming to protect.

The institute is a space for the continuation and development of knowledge, a space for education and visitors. Connected to this centre are small detachable field stations which are designed as day stations for researchers to set down equipment, conduct basic tests, and then return to the institute. A platform where people can set up bedding is provided, primarily for bird watchers or researchers needing to be up early or who need to be out all day. In contrast to the institute which is heavy, grounded and earthly, the field station is lightweight and perches delicately on top of the earth.

Finley Mijnarends

Having grown up on the Sunshine Coast, Finley is passionate about creating green spaces that people can find comfort and delight within, while making connections and memories. Undertaking a cultural exchange in the UK during her undergraduate degree, she enjoyed learning and experiencing architecture and design within another continent and is now studying her Master of Architecture at QUT.