Walking together in lightness
The ultimate renewable: timber is the star of the extraordinary ‘krakani lumi’ in north-eastern Tasmania.
wukalina/Mt William National Park sits on the north-eastern tip of Tasmania. Here, beyond the beach and among the banksias, you’ll find krakani lumi. Designed to leave as small a footprint on this significant cultural place, the all-timber standing camp is part of the Aboriginal Land Council’s wukalina walk, a four-day experience through the wilderness of the area.
Designed over a number of years by the Hobart-based firm Taylor and Hinds, the wukalina project was developed in close conversation with the Indigenous owners of the land (Tasmania’s palawa people), and the Aboriginal Land Council. The camp sits at the northern end of the spectacular Bay of Fires. The wukalina walk is an Aboriginal owned and operated guided walk that takes visitors around the larapuna and wukalina areas. It’s designed as a cultural experience where walkers experience the landscape through the culture and history of the palawa people.
You approach the site from the sand dunes of a nearby beach, and it isn’t visible through the coastal scrub until you’ve arrived — the seven structures of krakani lumi are cradled by surrounding silver banksia, Banksia marginata. The resting place, as its name translates, offers a communal site for gathering and a series of pavilions in which walkers sleep. Drawing inspiration from the half-dome forms of ancient Tasmanian Aboriginal shelters, the insides of the structures have curved walls. The exterior of each is clad in charred Tasmanian timber, which gives them the appearance of melting into the surrounding dark bushland. The buildings themselves have been designed to minimise impact to native flora and fauna, and in fact encourage it; small hollows within the wall cavities invite occupation by local birds and marsupials.
Lined in blackwood, the dome includes essential amenities, bedding that’s supplemented with quilted wallaby furs (known as ‘reore’) and scented with the essential oil of the local swamp paperbark, maleleuca ericifolia, a flower that was traditionally used to aid sleep.
The whole project was also detailed upon a timber aesthetic, with no glass in the buildings. This was vital because the palawa people wanted as small a footprint as possible in this special place.
Compared to concrete or steel, wood leaves a smaller, or even negative carbon footprint. This is because wood not only stores carbon (half of the weight of dry wood is carbon, absorbed from the atmosphere and stored for life by a growing tree), but it also has low embodied energy (this refers to the energy used during production and transport – usually greenhouse gas – emitting fossil fuels; the fewer of these the better). Trees provide the most environmentally friendly building material at our disposal.
Aluminium requires massive amounts of electricity (usually from fossil fuel sources – with some exceptions) to produce, so much in fact that it has been described as ‘solid energy’.
Plastics are also problematic. They’re made from fossil fuels and present an increasingly dire end-of-life problem. A toothbrush you used as a child, for instance, will sit in landfill for your lifetime and many more to come.
Concrete, steel and plastic are all materials removed from nature, processed away from their natural forms. It’s interesting that renewed interest in a concept called Biophilic, or nature-based, design, which incorporates natural materials such as wood into one’s surroundings, is showing increasing correlations with everything from wellbeing and productivity, to student behaviour and hospital patients’ recovery.
Against this backdrop of knowledge, is it any surprise then that the team behind the new krakani lumi decided to express their vision in wood?
For more on this incredible project, head to Make It Wood.