Tree change terrace a top spot at UTS Central
Imagine study and work breaks spent lazing under the Sydney sun among a grove of fig trees with panoramic views across campus and beyond. What sounds like just a dream is set to become reality when UTS Central’s north-facing garden terrace opens on level 8, complete with a row of lush, mature fig trees rescued from an abandoned nursery.
The terrace is one of two accessed through the new UTS Library in our reimagined Building 2. When it opens in November 2019, it will be the perfect spot for relaxing, networking, people watching down on Alumni Green or even informal study.
Features include bench seating, with three solar-powered benches for recharging small devices, a spectacular view into the UTS Reading Room below and, of course, the 12 rescued fig trees now thriving in their sunny new spot, ready to provide some much-needed shade come summer.
Keen-eyed staff and students may recall spotting trees flying through the air last summer as a crane conveyed them to their new home in UTS Central. Twelve fig trees were dropped off on the level 8 garden terrace, while a dozen rescued olive trees were whisked up to the rooftop garden on level 17.
Not revealed at the time, however, was the story of how the abandoned trees came to find a new home in UTS’s latest architectural landmark.
New life for old trees
Sustainability was one reason for the choice of the trees, according to Richard Tripolone and Phoebe Pape, landscape architects at FJMT, whose collaborative disciplines designed both the architecture and landscape for UTS Central.
“The trees were also chosen to provide instant impact and shade, as well as for their durability and beautiful sculptural forms,” Richard explains.
“The mature fig tree species on the level 8 terrace were specially selected to provide good canopy cover that is necessary for student and staff shade. The feature olive trees on level 17 were chosen for their grey-green foliage that aesthetically contrasts against the building’s white facade. They are also long-lived and suited to growing in containers.”
The two species were also chosen to perform well in their new environments, where they will need to survive the sometimes scorching Sydney summers.
The fig tree, Ficus microcarpa, that will provide summer shade on the UTS Library terrace once it opens in November, is of the Natida variety, originally native to some parts of northern Australia, as well as southern China and Southeast Asia. “It’s a long-lived and reliable species suited to containers,” Richard says. “They have settled in well to their new planters.”
Meanwhile, the Frantoio variety of olive trees, or Olea europaea, on level 17 are typically used for olive oil production, although we’ll have to wait and see if these trees produce sufficient quantities for UTS to produce its own label olive oil!
It’s not every day you take a journey with the landscape team of FJMT to choose trees from a supplier which rescues old-stock mature trees.
Anticipation grew as we turned into the property at Peats Ridge to be confronted by a huge front-end loader topped with a 40-metre Ficus microcarpa hillii that it was moving from one location to another. We were surrounded by 120 acres of distinctive foliage of many types, and assorted birds – parrots and the geese that followed us – and the dams they called home.
Walking through that site introduced us to many different types of bamboo, cactuses, crepe myrtles (the other selection possibility), camellias and palms etc. However, choosing both the tree types for UTS was relatively easy. There are many pieces of information and design intent from the landscape designers surrounding these decisions, but then you all just fall in love with the beauty of some trees over others.
The figs for level 8 were our first confirmed decision. The olives were a surprise. They were old and so had gnarled trunks and aged grace. I thought immediately of UTS olives or bottles of UTS olive oil – a project students could develop, perhaps with UTS clubs. They need a little care and just a trim each year!
Fast forward to the present and both tree types are certainly majestic in their new settings and bring a maturity to the spaces.
– Desley Luscombe, Professor of Architecture at UTS and Design Advocate for UTS Central
The rescue mission
Transplanting trees from one location to another isn’t always straightforward, but for UTS Central’s fig and olive trees, relocation proved a lifeline.
The abandoned NSW north coast nursery in which the fig trees had spent a decade was overgrown and set to be cleared for development. Similarly, the 12 olive trees now gracing the level 17 rooftop were saved from an olive-oil producing orchard near Taree, which had fallen on hard times due to the drought.
While the fig trees were in pots, earth-cutting machines were required to dig up the olive trees from the ground, before they were loaded onto trucks. From there, the olive trees were taken to a nursery where their roots were placed in soil, with added nutrients for protection and health, and then bagged. They were delivered to UTS within four weeks of removal from the orchard.
Large planter boxes now house the trees at UTS Central, with the volume of soil calculated to control their growth. A drip irrigation system supplied with recycled water keeps them hydrated and anchor straps provide support in high winds.
Landscaping for impact
Having had six months to settle into their new position, the rescued trees on levels 8 and 17 make striking features within the landscaped terraces, which Richard Tripolone says were located to complement the building’s geometry.
“On level 8, the canopy of the fig trees provides a fantastic sculptural form as well as shade for student seating,” he explains. “The raised planters also feature integrated seating, while large deck areas offer space for loose furniture such as bean bags.
“Up on level 17, the aim was for the roof garden to provide a ‘summit’ experience that extends and showcases the geometry of the building. Generous, sinuous raised planter boxes become the centrepiece of the landscaping, with lushly planted terraces that frame the space and provide seating from which to appreciate the northern views over UTS to Sydney’s CBD.”
While level 17 will be reserved for special events, the level 8 garden terrace with its rescued fig trees – as well as a spacious southern terrace with views over Broadway – will welcome all students and staff from late November 2019 just as spring turns into summer.
What better time to experience one of the best tree-lined seats in the house?