The Margaret Whitlam Pavilion will be an important facility for the National Arboretum Canberra, related to the Visitor Centre and the spectrum of activities planned for the Arboretum.
The Pavilion is located on the south-western tip of the U-shaped Events terrace, looking across the future grassed Amphitheatre to the Visitors Centre and out to the Central Valley and the city of Canberra beyond. Its axis aligns with the Captain Cook water jet, continuing Griffin’s structuring of the city by focal radiating axes. The building is kept below the landscaped ridge to the west, so that it is subordinate to the landform, whilst its roof shape is a defined curve in contrast to the rolling topography of the site. The pointed curve of the roof will be an emphatic pause in the sweep of the Arboretum’s landscape in this precinct, and a dramatic statement when viewed from the main car entry adjoining Tuggeranong Parkway.
The building includes a main internal space suitable for functions of up to 120 people, including cocktail parties, weddings, dinners, music and other performances and ceremonial events. The space opens eastwards to an outdoor terrace projecting over the lip of the slope, and north and south to smaller linking terraces, each with fully-openable glass doors. The eastern terrace captures a panorama of the city and its surrounding mountains, with the sweep of the lake and the Parliament flagpole as a focus.
The structure is an innovative pre-fabricated arrangement of steel beams and insulating composite panels, clad externally in zinc, matching the ribbed roof of the Village Centre to the north. Low wings of off-form concrete house service functions.
The interior of the Pavilion complements in feel and detail the ecological focus of the Arboretum. The limed plywood lining and the use of special elements in hardwood highlights the value of trees as sources of material and as carbon storage. The space has been extensively modelled for acoustics, suiting amplified and natural voice and music.
Low-energy services and water recycling complement the sustainable focus of the Arboretum, and ensure the Pavilion’s on-going operational feasibility.
The building was designed by architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and constructed by Manteena. It was developed as part of the Arboretum “100 Forests“ master plan, won in competition in 2004 by landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean and urban designers Tonkin Zulaikha Greer.