It’s school holidays again and there is EVEN MORE for you to explore and enjoy of Canberra’s best science and technology!
1) The Shine Dome
This iconic building houses most of the Australian Academy of Science, whose role it is to champion, celebrate and support excellence in Australian science. Nick-named the Martian Embassy (because they need an embassy in Canberra too!), the building is a Canberra landmark. It was built in 1959 (and doesn’t it look like it?) and is on the National Heritage list. It is actually on the campus of the Australian National University and used to be called Becker House.
The Dome was designed by architect Roy Grounds and is 710 tonnes of copper covered concrete, surrounded by a narrow moat of water which was emptied, sand-blasted, re-sealed and re-filled in 2014. It has custom-designed furniture and inside the domed ceiling of the main auditorium needed suspended baffles to muffle the echo, complicating its simple shape.Interestingly, t was then found that the striped eucalyptus walls created a dizzying sense of optical confusion that made people feel sick, but that was eventually fixed by adding strings between each panel of wood, which also act as a sound muffler (source: Radio National, Blueprint for Life).
At the very least, you have do to the obligatory selfie outside, inside there is a series of public science events (a new theme every year) that are fascinating – bringing science and innovation to the masses (well, those of us who care enough to buy tickets!). And did you know, you can even hire the Shine Dome for your next event? Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to grab your Shine Dome postcard from the National Library giftshop!
2) CSIRO Discovery Centre
The CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for those that need to know) Discovery Centre is located on Black Mountain. Open on weekdays, it has self-guided interactive exhibitions that explain the history of the CSIRO and the innovations it has helped with in Australian science for 150 years. Aeroguard? CSIRO. Wifi? CSIRO. Polymer (plastic) banknotes? CSIRO. And much, much more!
An absolute hidden gem of Canberra where the kids can also learn a lot about scientific concepts.
And don’t forget (because goodness knows I’m all about the coffee and snacks) that they have the Discovery Cafe!
3) National Botanic Gardens
Another hidden gem on Black Mountain (well, maybe not such hidden and not something you automatically think of when you think “science”) is the National Botanic Gardens (we have all the “Nationals” here in Canberra!). The Gardens are an exquisite collection of Australian native plants – they have both a living collection and a herbarium – and the plants are displayed for everyone to enjoy as well as for research into plant classification and biology. The Gardens also cultivates plants threatened in the wild. This helps protect them against extinction and provides information which might assist reintroduction to their natural habitat.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens has received eco certification from Ecotourism Australia – the only national programme recognising Australia’s best sustainable businesses. It is only the second botanic gardens in Australia to receive such accreditation.
AND they have great activities for the kids, adults and families, including concerts, hands-on art and craft and guided walks.
4) Telstra Tower
It’s one of Canberra’s most iconic buildings. You can see it from just about every part of Canberra and in my humble opinion, a Canberra vista is always improved with Telstra Tower in the background. You may or may not be aware that it is a fully-functioning telecommunications tower, which qualifies as “sciencey” enough for me. It centralises essential communication facilities on the one structure:
– Major trunk line radio-telephony facilities
– Television transmitters for national and commercial services.
– FM radio transmitters
– Radio paging (Telefinder services) facilities
– Mobile radio telephone base station services to vehicles
– Cellular phone base station
More science – the mountain is formed of early sedimentary rock (most surrounding mountains are igneous ie. produced by volcanic heat) the term “Black” most likely derives from the thickness of the dry sclerophyll vegetation. The mountain, predominantly quartz impregnated sandstone was, according to historical records, first climbed by white men on 8/12/1820. It is said that Charles Throsby-Smith and james Vaughn used it as a vantage point in an effort to locate the Murrumbidgee River.
It rises 195.2 meters above the summit of Black Mountain and also has 360 degree views of Canberra (but not on a misty day!).
Telstra Tower was originally named Telecom Tower, however locally it was simply known as Black Mountain Tower. It’s construction was not without controversy, however, and protests against the Tower on aesthetic and ecological grounds were strongly voiced during the earlier stages of the approval procedures, and at the various hearings which included a lengthy Supreme Court case.
The lower level of the Tower’s entrance foyer, houses the Telstra Heritage Exhibition which traces the history of Australian telecommunications as well as a theatre showcasing a video, produced shortly after the Tower opened in 1980 on the tower’s design and construction.
5) National Rock Garden
I know, right??? I didn’t know we had one either! But we do! It’s actually just the start of a much bigger project, but a good spot to stretch the legs and maybe picnic if you are that way inclined. The National Rock Garden is located off Lady Denman Drive and will eventually celebrate Australia’s rich geological heritage with a permanent display, showcasing the diversity of the rocks, and minerals that contribute so significantly to the nation’s landscapes, heritage and prosperity. In the interim, the rocks on display are still fairly impressive – with a series of Federation rocks from each State and Territory.
And the views! Don’t forget the views!
6) The National Arboretum
The National Arboretum Canberra is truly a jewel in the crown of an amazing city. Born out of burnt out pine plantations from the 2001 and 2003 bushfires, it is an amazing collection of 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from around Australia and the world.
Wherever you walk, you are greeted by amazing vistas of the surrounding hills and over Canberra:
But it’s from the air that the design of the Aboretum really comes into its own!
The Village Centre is the is an award-winning, architect-designed building with panoramic views over Canberra provides a variety of high-quality visitor services and facilities, including a restaurant, cafe, gift shop, information hub, and the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection.
And if you feel like a bit of fancy lunch, the Conservatory restaurant is seriously good:
The unique nature-themed Pod Playground is a wonderland for kids:
And, Canberra company APositive has developed cool Augmented Reality – ARboretum also allows you to explore information on the site’s forests. Scan surrounding landscapes and immediately access the Arboretum’s web content on specific trees, their origins and their significance!
I think that’s enough to keep you busy for a bit more! But keep an eye out – we have EVEN MORE science to show off in the National Capital!!!