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Tree of Knowledge Memorial in Barcaldine

The Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine (Western Queensland) was the shaded point of the great shearer’s strikes of the late 1800s, as well as the site of the first ever reading of the Labor Party Manifesto.

It is a heritage place of national significance. The formation of the Australian Labor Party (and the National Party), the first Labor parliamentarian elected anywhere in the world, and the poems written by Banjo Paterson are all directly attributable to these events.

In 2006, the tree died, allegedly poisoned. We were approached to design a memorial to the tree, in collaboration with architect Brian Hooper.

The council agreed to retain the entire trunk of the dead tree, including all remaining limbs and as much of the root ball as possible.

The outer screen of the memorial is clad in charcoaled timber, creating a kind of mourning veil around the relic. The central space is defined by more than 3600 suspended timber members, which are hung to form the external shape of the original canopy.

The scale of the structure, and the form created within it, are based on the tree’s canopy between 1890 and 1905, which we reestablished by building a 3D model using historic photographs.

The suspended recycled timber moves in the breeze and casts shadow on the ground. In this shaded environment, the stories of the strikes, the Labor Party manifesto and the tree itself can all be remembered.

m3architecture with Brian Hooper architect.

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“Perhaps the most powerful story of collaboration, leadership and perseverance between client and architect.

The architects have amplified the beauty, history and serenity of this important place through their work, and through their ability to communicate a clear vision for the project to the community, often at critical, pivotal moments during the projects delivery.”

RAIA National Awards Jury Citation.

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Photography by Jon Linkins and Brian Hooper Architect.