Friday 18 October 2013

Science with the WOW factor

The Australian PlantBank at The Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan (I Willis)


The new Australian PlantBank at The Australian Botanic Gardens Mt Annan

The brand new shiny science facility that was recently opened at The Australian Botanic Garden at Mt Annan certainly has the wow factor a plenty. Lots of stainless steel, concrete and glass gives the new laboratory the smik slick look. The world class leader in the collection and preservation of Australian native flora provides an example of how science can be done in this country. With the combination of leading edge research, technical expertise and community engagement this facility is a model for other science infrastructure in Australia.

Exterior of PlantBank (I Willis)

The general public certainly gave the new building the wow seal of approval on the tours of the state of the art laboratories and seed bank. The public have the opportunity to take guided tours of the building. There are conference rooms, meetings rooms and educational facilities for kindergarten through high school and university to post-graduate and the general community.

John leading a group of visitors (I Willis)

On the recent open day tours were led by John Siemon, the enthusiastic project manager, his staff, and volunteers from the Friends of the Botanic Gardens. John's energy and passion for the facility provided a cut-through commentary of the role of the PlantBank, while not dumbing down the technical aspects of plant science. He provided a refreshing clarity to the science while engaging the members of the general public who peppered him with questions about the Wollemi Pine to agar.

The PlantBank building provides an architectural statement about the endangered Cumberland Woodland that surrounds the facility. The building is designed not only to protect the plant vaults, but to be fire resistant. It is a post-modern statement in concrete, stainless steel and glass. The striking lines of the building provide a symbosis with its environment and is an aesthetic extension of the woodland that surrounds it. The building emerges out of the woodland, like the majestic red gums around it, as you approach either on foot. The building makes a statement, an announcement, to the visitor that matches its confidence. The architects BVN Donovan Hill have, according to the website, used a
metaphor to communicate that broad conceptual idea that 'PlantBank is positioned globally as a symbol of the preservation of the natural cycle from the germination of seed to the propagation of forests'. It does so from the large scale siting strategy through to the selection of materials and detailing.
Diversity Wall located near the reception desk of PlantBank (I Willis)
This is supported by the warmth of the timber interior veneers of mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) that contrast with the clinical efficiency of the glass and stainless steel.

The Macarthur region has certainly gained a magnificent addition to the gardens, which are the most visited tourist attraction in the area. Visitors with be able to take guided tours (at a cost) or self-guided tours when the PlantBank is open to the general public.

The PlantBank is a globally important facility in the Macarthur region and illustrates the global significance of Australian science. According the PlantBank website, the:
PlantBank incorporates modern world-class research laboratories, seed storage facilities, climate controlled glasshouse infrastructure and specialised teaching laboratories. The facilities at PlantBank complement those associated with the National Herbarium of New South Wales at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. PlantBank can accommodate 50 research staff, students and local and international collaborative researchers at any one time. The interactive educational space can host several hundred students and visitors simultaneously. PlantBank will become a leading institution for education in plant science, invigorating the visitor experience through interactions with research findings and scientists giving valuable information on the important role of plants in our lives.
Eerieness of the 'Blue Room' (I Willis)

 Visitors can take in the eerieness of the 'blue room' adjacent to the cryo-storage areas where some plants are stored at -196°C. These are next to the seed vault freezer where dried seeds are kept at
-20°C. Inspect the seedling that has grown from a 100 year old seed. Amazing considering the conditions it was kept in. At the Diversity Wall view the an example of the worlds largest seed pod from the Seychelles. What does it remind you of? 
When are you going to visit this exciting addition to Australia's cutting edge scientific facility at The Australian Botanic Gardens Mount Annan? 


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