Cox Architecture, TTW and Taylor Thomson Whitting combine to secure the Australian Certified Timber award for the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga.

A highly-acclaimed Australian architectural practice and an award-winning structural engineer have combined to produce the winner of the Australian Certified Timber award announced as part of the 21st Australian Timber Design Awards.

The Wildlife Retreat was a worthy winner of the coveted Australian Certified Timber category for 2020, supported by Responsible Wood, Australia’s largest forest certification scheme.

Described as a lush bushland oasis just a stone’s throw away from the Sydney CBD, the Wildlife Retreat was opened by the Taronga Conservation Society in October 2019.

Owned and operated by the not-for-profit organisation, the five-star ‘eco-retreat’ attached to Sydney’s iconic Taronga Zoo was commissioned to unite earthy Australian luxury with an up-close overnight experience starring the very animals which call the zoo home.

The retreat combines a rich tapestry of timbers with Responsible Wood certified ASH (Australian Sustainable Hardwoods) and Warringah Timbers featured extensively throughout the project.

The first of the awards presented on the night, the Australian Certified Timber award celebrates building projects that best showcase Australian certified timbers.

Responsible Wood certification was carried by the majority of entrants and according to the Responsible Wood Marketing and Communications Officer, Jason Ross, provides the ultimate ‘stamp of approval’ for Australian grown timber from a sustainable source.

The awards were hosted ‘virtually’ for the first time by Julian Brenchley, residential architect on The Block Insider, the popular home renovation TV show, who has been both lecturer and tutor in design theory at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

“In this strange year where nothing is normal, we are humbled by the continuing interest in the awards,” said Andrew Dunn, CEO, Timber Development Association, which has organised the event since it was conceived in 1999.

“Expecting designers to be distracted this year, we were pleased to see an increase in entries over last year,” Mr Dunn said.

“We are also seeing a maturing of timber design. Initially, timber design was only considered for housing or coverings to other materials.

“Over the years the continued growth in the non-residential categories has again seen this category split the division into two – catering for public buildings in one and commercial in another.

“We are also noticing an increased use of timber for structural purposes; designers recognise timber can offer the dual benefit of structure and decoration.”

Mr Dunn said the diversity and excellence of projects submitted demonstrated unique and thoughtful consideration of the selection of timber and endorsement of the structural, natural and aesthetic qualities excellently employed by the high calibre of Australian designers.

An intimate awards plaque presentation is scheduled for 6 pm on December 8 at the Union Hotel in North Sydney. For inquires please visit the Timber Design Awards website.

Responsible Wood will feature case studies from a number of entries, including the Wildlife Retreat, over the coming weeks.

For more information about Responsible Wood and Sustainable Forest Management more generally please visit our website.

Project Details:

Entrant: Wildlife Retreat at Taronga
Architect: COX Architecture 
Engineer: TTW – Taylor Thomson Whitting
Photographers: Mike Chorley Photography / Ethan Rohloff