words Douglas Murphy
Australian practice m3architecture has completed the Tree of Knowledge memorial in Barcaldine, a small town in Queensland, Australia. The “Tree of Knowledge” was a ghost gum tree, revered because it is said that during the 1891 shearers’ strike the Australian Labour Party was founded under its boughs. In 2006 vandals poisoned the tree with pesticide and it died soon after.
The remains of the tree were removed, preserved, and are now included in a new commemorative pavilion. The roots are visible under a glass floor, and a large timber box has been constructed around the fossil tree. The box contains 3,600 timber members, suspended to create a vaulted interior space that mimics the 1891 extent of the tree’s canopy.
The project, produced in collaboration with Brian Hooper Architect, is a dramatic essay in available strategies for spatially evoking memory. The exterior of the box creates a “veil”, blank and monumental, the charcoal evokes ash and cinders, symbols of death and loss. The glass floor is quasi-archaeological, the interior form is the inverted ghostly “cast” of a lost physical presence, the perforated repetition of similar elements calls to mind fields of tombstones, while the vaulted space is reminiscent of chapels. The use of timber, however, symbolises continuity and renewal.
Credit Brian Hooper Architect