Eucalyptusdom Exhibition at Powerhouse Museum
Presented at the Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo, Eucalyptusdom is a multi-disciplinary exhibition exploring the unique and ever-changing cultural history of the gum tree. It brings together a diverse array of objects from the museum’s collection with a selection of newly commissioned works in an atmospheric exhibition space designed by SJB in collaboration with AIA Gold Medal recipient Richard Leplastrier AO, and delivered with the exhibition expertise of Vania Contreras, 3D spatial designer.
First experienced from the public realm, before entering the museum the visitor encounters ‘Line of Fire’ – a eucalypt bushland pocket installed in the forecourt of the museum. Designed by Craig Burton the trees are a tangible rejuvenation of Country that existed pre-colonisation, reintroducing the native scents, unique colours, bristling leaves, and creatures of residence to this ecosystem that existed for time immemorial. Before one realises, they’ve been welcomed to the exhibition by the gum trees.
The exhibit space evokes the adventure of exploring the forest, an invitation to discover artefacts, commissions, scents, soundscapes, immersed in a full sensory experience. The ground cover terrain dances and shifts in plan and elevation; long fabrics of charcoal sketches reflecting encounters with eucalyptus in the forest subtly mimick the sweeping treetops. Through collaboration with lighting designer Nick Schlieper fabrics disappear from sight, echoing the endlessness of Country and colossal heights of the ancient euc. Upon exit one wonders if all has been discovered, there’s a desire to return.
One of the driving concepts was to change the landscape of exhibition design, notoriously unsustainable in its lifecycle and disposal of staging. The architectural terrain is proposed as a solution to be reused, flat packed for storage and transportation, and reassembled without fixtures or adhesives; timber manufacturing, and a joint system designed with Queen & Crawford Design Workshop, Sydney. The material of the architecture is of Eucalyptus pilularis (blackbutt) plywood, a source of Country, locally acquired. Display surfaces of the same material with form-ply finish provide depth and contrast to the centrepiece displays.