National Museum of Australia
National Museum of Australia
A project in collaboration with architects ARM and Australian planting designer expert Paul Thompson celebrates Australian cultural, social and environmental history.

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The forecourt contains a series of immersive, informative, gathering and sensory spaces including a ‘Mosaic Garden’ of Australian native plantings suitable for the challenging Canberra environment of hot dry summers and cold, frosty winters.  The amorphic forms of the garden are inspired by the Aboriginal practice of Fire Stick Farming where mosaic patterns are formed from intermittent low intensity burning.  Elements within the garden include lawn areas, small gathering spaces, an amphitheatre of local stone plinths, serpentine paths, blackened timber seating and raised garden beds. A large event space provides a venue for many and varied museum functions. 

A ‘Welcome to Country’ sequence begins at the forecourt’s entrance with a garden of local sandstones featuring carvings by local First Nations artists. Some carvings are low down or hidden so there’s joy in searching for them, especially for children. In the garden’s centre is a smoking-ceremony stone with a bowl-shaped cavity surrounded by paving embedded with twinkling LED lights that form an abstract constellation effect.  An arresting and interactive 70 metre ‘Welcome Wall’ of reflective curved stainless steel leads visitors towards the Museum, while marker plaques on the cobbled path point towards significant Aboriginal sites.

TCL have been very proactive in ensuring the on-going success of garden and to date this has included the creation of a detailed maintenance document for each plant species, as well as the Museum committing to bi-yearly visits to ensure that the design intent and ongoing care of the garden is of a high standard. TCL also assisted the Museum with the creation of a brochure and on- line information on the forecourt as a whole and the plantings within it.

The forecourt now engulfs the Museum in landscape, rather than the paving that it replaces. More than a route to the building, it is a destination in itself – an engaging environment to meander, sit, learn, rest, or play.


Client Name
National Museum of Australia
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
5,300 sqm
Traditional Owners
Ngunnawal people
ARM Architecture
Paul Thompson
Ngunnawal, Ngunawal, and Ngambri artists Wally Bell, Selina Walker, Adrian Brown, Karen Bell, Matilda House, Uncle Jim, Louise Brown, and Arnold Williams
Firefly Point of View (FPoV)
Share Project
T.C.L acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — the traditional custodians of the land on which we work. We respect their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture and recognise that sovereignty has never been ceded. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.