Skip to content

Buildings & Art

The Australian Botanic Garden is also home to some stunning art works and architecture nestled amongst our natural woodlands and garden displays.

The Australian PlantBank is the main research facility at the Australian Botanic Garden and aims to be a secure repository for Australian species (including germplasm, seeds and tissue cultures), a regional hub for innovative and applied change research, a collaborative venture with major universities in Sydney, and a public and student education facility.

These buildings, located just north of the centrel loop near the middle of the Australian Botanic Garden, are not open to the public except for behind-the-scenes tours. The main administration/nursery complex was built in 1986 during the main development stage of the Garden, with a Bicentennial grant. At the same time, the theme gardens, Terrace Garden and lakes were constructed.

The horticulture research laboratory was established in 1989, with a tissue culture laboratory the dominant design feature.
The Bowden Centre was opened on Monday 7 May 2007 by the Hon. Phil Koperberg, Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water. Catering for groups as large as 140, the centre plays host to school children visiting the Garden as well as providing a private and serene location to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and wakes.
The bird hide, located at Lake Nadungamba, was donated by the Friends of The Gardens and was completed in 1997.

From the bird hide, visitors can observe the variety of birdlife that calls the Garden home.
Registered as a heritage item, the Sydney Water Supply Canal is managed by the Sydney Catchment Authority. It runs through the centre of the Australian Botanic Garden and supplies most of the irrigation water for the Garden. The canal was built between 1880 and 1888 and is part of the Upper Nepean Scheme, Sydney's fourth water supply. This scheme, first proposed in 1869, harnessed the headwaters of the Nepean River and its tributaries, along with the Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon Rivers, to ensure a reliable, high-quality water supply for the rapidly growing city.

The Upper Canal is an engineering marvel and is entirely gravity fed. It consists of tunnels, open canals and aqueducts that convey water 62 km from Pheasants Nest to Prospect Reservoir, entirely by gravity. The canal passes under part of the Garden via a 686-metre tunnel. Entry to the reserved areas around the canal is prohibited to protect the water supply.

The canal is mainly cut through natural sandstone bedrock but some sections, especially where it passes through shale, are lined with sandstone, brick or cement. It is believed that sandstone quarried from the north face of Mount Annan was used for this purpose and as capping on the brick aqueduct south of the tunnel.

The canal provides water for Camden, Campbelltown and Liverpool, also Wilton, Appin and Douglas Park. Until 1960 when the Warragamba Dam was completed, the Upper Nepean system supplied most of Sydney's water. It is a remarkable engineering feat which will continue to supply this most precious resource for many years to come.
A permanent installation at the Australian Botanic Garden is a maze quiz designed to exercise your brain as well as your legs. The maze was launched in 2002 by Graham West, Member for Campbelltown, with a traditional Aboriginal welcome being given by the Australian Botanic Garden's Knowledge Holders, Fran Bodkin and Gavin Andrews.

Named the Federation Flannel Flower Maze, the installation takes on the shape of a stylised flannel flower and features a paved track 245 metres in length which presents a series of 10 questions about Federation at key intersections. If all questions are answered correctly, visitors are directed to the cascading fountain in the middle of the maze. 

The maze was designed to be a celebration of the Centenary of Federation and to be a stylised form of the NSW Centenary of Federation floral emblem, the flannel flower (Actinotus helianthi) - which is the focus of much ongoing research, propagation and cultivation at the Australian Botanic Garden. Several flannel flower strains, including Star Bright and the long-stemmed Parkes Star, are being cultivated at the Australian Botanic Garden as well the Annan Star (Rhodanthe anthemoides).

The maze provides visitors with a unique experience while inspiring an appreciation of plants. It is intended to be fun and entertaining, while at the same time being an educational experience for people of all ages.
You will find the Sundial of Human Involvement just off Caley Drive, in the south-eastern corner of the Garden. Stop at the sign and walk up the path on the right hand side of the road to Sundial Hill, located near a saddle of Mount Annan. From here there is a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside. On a clear day you will see the city of Sydney to the north-east and the Blue Mountains to the west

A rare type of sundial
The Sundial of Human Involvement is a rare type of sundial that uses a person’s body to cast a shadow onto hour markers and to tell the time. The position of the person is adjusted throughout the year following  a figure of eight pathway, or analemma - so this type of sundial is known as an analemmatic sundial.

Telling the time
Follow the instructions on the nearby bronze plate. When your feet are on the correct date, clock time is given by the position of your shadow, providing you are tall enough - you might have to raise your hands above your head to become a bit taller! Check the time on the conventional horizontal sundial (accurate to within 1 or 2 minutes) on your right, but remember to follow all the instructions correctly!

How accurate is the Sundial of Human Involvement?
The simple method of telling the time using the Sundial of Human Involvement does not give precise clock time throughout the whole year. However, the small errors lie within the width of the shadow and occur in the early morning and late afternoon at times of the year corresponding to the maximum and minimum of the equation of time (see below). The novelty value of being able to read clock time directly from a sundial well compensates for the slight mathematical imperfections introduced!

The hour markers
The basalt crystals used as hour markers in the Sundial of Human Involvement came from the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. These crystals are featured in the construction of the walls within the Garden. The tops of the basalt columns used for the sundial were cut off at an angle of 35 degrees, and the hour numbers were chiselled into the stone. The polished faces have been waxed to improve their appearance and make the numbers more clearly visible.

The analemma plate
The basalt slab for the analemma came from Port Fairy in Victoria. This basalt originates from the volcanic region of south-west Victoria and is a dark grey-black colour, with little crystal face reflection when broken. In colour, texture and gas bubble content it is remarkably similar to the basalt columns from Mount Tomah.

Solar time and clock time
Most other types of sundial show ‘solar time’ and you need to make certain corrections before the sundial will show the same time as indicated on your watch. The first correction, called the equation of time occurs due to the of the tilt of the earth’s axis of rotation and the elliptical shape of the earth’s orbit around the sun. The sum of these effects varies with the date but is the same everywhere on earth. The second correction occurs because of the difference in time between the sundial's location and the local time zone longitude. This correction is constant throughout the year, but is different for different locations.

The Sundial of Human Involvement incorporates the effects of longitude into the position of the basalt crystals used as hour markers, while the equation of time corrections are built into the central analemma.

Design of the Mount Annan sundial
The Sundial of Human Involvement was designed by Dr Margaret Folkard and Mr John Ward of Sundials Australia in Adelaide. The stone was carved by Adelaide sculptor Mr Silvio Apponyi. You can see two other different types of sundials, also designed by Sundials Australia, at our other Gardens - an equatorial sundial at the Blue Mountians Botanic Garden and an armillary sphere sundial at the Royal Botanic Garden.

Other analemmatic sundials
Other analemmatic sundials may by found at the: 
  • Cathedral of Brou near Bourg-en-Bresse, 370 km south-east of Paris, France;
  • Great Exhibition Hall in Liverpool, England;
  • Reinauen Central Park near Bonn, Germany; 
  • Park near the Palace of the Popes, Avignon, France;
  • University of Arizona, Tucson, USA; and
  • University of North Carolina, Charlotte, USA.

Making your own analemma
Find a room that has a wall with a window facing approximately north. Cover an area of window about 400 mm square with black cardboard and cut a neat hole in the centre of the cardboard about 12-15 mm in diameter. The hole should be about 1.5 to 3.0 metres above the floor. Mark the position of the sun’s image on the floor (or wall) at the same time of the day, say 12 o’clock on your watch, every few days for a whole year. After a year you will have an analemma traced out on the floor. By repeating this exercise at different times, say 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock, etc., you will get a family of analemmas.

Instead of a hole you can use a mirror about 50 mm square (or round) located on a window sill to produce analemmas on the ceiling and walls of a room. 

Layout of the sundial
The Sundial of Human Involvement records time with respect to the azimuth of the sun. The azimuth is the angular distance on the horizon plane between the true north-south line and the foot of the perpendicular from the sun to the horizon.

The Sundial of Human Involvement consists of an elliptical ring of basalt crystals, which represent the hour markers, with a major axis of about 5 meters and a minor axis of 3 meters. Each hour marker has a number carved in it. Inside the ellipse, and located along the north-south line, is an analemma with dates marked on it at fortnightly intervals around the circumference.

A gift to the Garden
The Sundial of Human Involvement is dedicated to the memory of Winifred Macarthur-Onslow, who lived in and loved this countryside, and is a gift to the Australian Botanic Garden from her daughters, Pamela, Pheobe and Annette. The Macarthur homestead can be seen in a south-west direction from the sundial.
The Automatic Weather Station provides updates every 30 minutes to the Bureau of Meteorology via a radio-link and telephone. The data measured include air and soil temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction and rainfall. Weather conditions are available live to the public and news agencies for reporting on the daily weather updates.

The Automatic Weather Station is located just to the east of the Woodland Picnic Area at the Australian Botanic Garden. The best way to find the compound is to park your car at the Woodland Picnic Area and follow the path down and past the picnic shelter. Follow the path through the trees, over the creek and as you come up the rise you will see the Weather Station a short distance in front.
The Stolen Generations Memorial is designed to take visitors on a journey of healing and reflection, first through Cumberland Plain Woodland - the original forest that once occurred across the area the Garden sits in - then through a series of boardwalks. 

The site was chosen by the Stolen Generations to reconnect Aboriginal people with their land. Their story is told in the sculptural centrepiece and they invite visitors to sit and reflect on the tragic consequences of separating Aboriginal children from their families. If you wish, you can scoop up some water from the ‘river of tears’ and trickle it onto the sculpture, and, as you do this, try to imagine the experiences of the Stolen Generations and make this a place for all Australians to continue the healing process.

The sculptural centrepiece, of Hawkesbury sandstone from the nearby Appin quarry, was designed and carved by the Paakantyi artist Badger Bates, from Wilcannia, western NSW. The sculpture is at home in this place and brings a feeling of peacefulness.

‘The front panel of the sculpture shows a mother and father with small child and baby - the child size footprints on the ground represent the child being taken away, and the adult footprints on the other side represent the grown up child returning to find his/her people. The water feature represents the tears of sorrow shed by all affected by the Stolen Generations - tears that are still being shed today.

‘The back panel is my gift to the Stolen Generations. It represents a thundercloud and rain called up by the Ngatyi or Rainbow Serpent, who is angry and sad over the hurt done to his people who were taken away from their country.’

This Memorial is part of a commitment by the NSW Government and the Botanic Gardens Trust to reconciliation with the Indigenous people of Australia. Plans for this Memorial were launched on Sorry Day, 26 May 2003 and it was opened 2 October 2007.
Enhancing the visitor experience is a series of sculptures, ranging from permanent stone structures to more temporary art works made from recycled materials.
  • Wallaby silhouettes by John Petrie
  • Wedding knot by Geoff Duggan
  • Snails by Keith Polsen
  • Enhance the drive through experience by Graham Chalcroft
Located to the north-east of the Garden, on Mount Annan Drive is the Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living. It is a joint-venture between the Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands Trust, Campbelltown City Council, Wollondilly Shire Council and Camden Council.

The Centre is multi-purpose and focussed on sustainable homes and gardens, education and community participation. Its goal is to promote sustainability, social equity, cultural diversity and economic stability. The site includes displays of alternative energy production and use, waste water recycling, water and energy efficiency, waste avoidance and management. The facility demonstrates how sustainability can be achieved at the individual household community and regional levels. The site hosts community-led cultural events and festivals.

You can learn more about the Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Lviing by visiting their website at www.mcsl.org.au.
scripttarget