Guulabaa Place of Koala wins international design award

Friday 14 Jun 2024

Guulabaa – Place of Koala in Cowarra State Forest has won the Gensler Community by Design Award, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Gensler Australia, Forestry Corporation of NSW, Koala Conservation Australia, WildNets, Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council and Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail. The Gensler Community by Design Award recognises projects that showcase the transformative impact of design excellence in a community.

Guulabaa – Place of Koala is a tourism precinct on the NSW Mid North Coast offering visitors opportunities to learn about koala conservation, Aboriginal culture, modern forestry, have a treetop adventure, relax and enjoy forest walks or picnic under the eye of The Big Koala sculpture. Guulabaa means ‘place of koala’ in local Gathang, the language of the Biripi people, the Traditional Owners of the land on which Guulabaa sits.

Architectural firm Gensler Australia assembled talent from diverse design fields to inform the project for client Forestry Corporation of NSW, whilst also fostering close collaboration with Guulabaa project partners, local community and the timber industry.

Integral to the award is the Gensler-designed ‘The Hub,’ a series of unique hardwood timber decks which draw the visitor into the trees and provide a koala’s perspective of the forest. ‘The Hub’ links Koala Conservation Australia’s wild koala breeding facility, Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council café and gallery, Wildnets Adventure and Hello Koalas ‘The Big Koala’, whilst also providing an outdoor amphitheatre and connection to the forest picnic area and walking tracks.

“Winning the 2024 Community by Design Award for Guulabaa Hub underscores the power of regenerative design. This project not only honours Aboriginal cultural heritage and 60,000 years of innovation but also exemplifies our commitment to environmental stewardship and community-based architecture. We are thankful for the valuable knowledge and experience gained through our partnerships with Koala Conservation Australia (KCA), WildNets, Forestry Corp., builder Frank Maione, TTW, E- Lab, Cundall, MBM and Tensile,” said Gensler Design Director, Ken McBryde

“Engaging with native forest product manufacturers including Big River Timbers and Coffs Harbour Hardwoods allowed us to harness their specialist expertise and capabilities, significantly reducing our project's carbon footprint. A standout experience was learning and designing on Country with Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council, which profoundly enriched our understanding and design approach. We are immensely grateful for the invaluable insights gained from all our partners,” Mr McBryde said.

Forestry Corporation of NSW is integral to the project, having gained NSW Government grant funding for creation of ‘The Hub’ and engineering partnerships with local timber suppliers.

A video is also available.

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Source and image credit: Forestry Corporation of NSW

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