ASH ‘trees’ in multi-million creative precinct project

TIMBER from the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods manufacturing plant in Heyfield will feature in the new Latrobe Creative Precinct.

A number of ‘trees’ are being created in conjunction with ASH’s technical partner, TGA Engineering, to be used in the precinct’s stunning light-filled foyer in Traralgon.

The foyer will have ASH tree structures scattered throughout, reaching as high as 8.5 metres.

Because of the size and how intricately everything has been pieced together, ASH managing director Vince Hurley said it was one of the company’s most adventurous projects.

“When our engineers sat down to do the design, they actually said ‘this is one of the most complex jobs we’ll ever have to do’, because of the nature of the angles and the fitting together,” he said.

The trees were created using a specialised machine called the Hundegger.

“The Hundegger uses a digital 3D model of the project and translates the actions required to the machine, which automatically selects the correct tools to complete the work,” Mr Hurley explained.

“The engineers are actually programmers, so what they are doing is programming the robots and the design to make the trees.

“Each tree takes roughly 16 hours to create and is then sanded, polished, joined together and capped with timber plugs.

“We’ve selected Victorian Ash.

“It’s a sustainable regrowth hardwood that’s been sourced through our mill.”

Mr Hurley said all of the work for the project had been undertaken in Heyfield, adding it was quite special to know that the works would be installed at a new landmark building not too far away.

“The feed stock for the project has actually come from the logs we’ve purchased from VicForests, it’s come through our green mill, it’s come through our drying systems, it’s come through our dry milling and then it’s come through our Masslam lines,” he aid.

“There has been a lot of people involved in the project in Heyfield, and it’s basically very much vertically integrated from the log.”

The architects of the $38.5 million Latrobe Creative Precinct development, Jackson Architecture and Katsieris Origami, designed finished spaces that celebrated the history and future of the timber industry.

The project has received $10 million in funding from the federal and state governments, and a remarkable $18.5 million from Latrobe City Council.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said the construction of the precinct was an important way to honour Gippsland’s timber industry and the skill of its workforce.

“The Latrobe Creative Precinct will be an incredible facility for locals to enjoy, and these high-tech timber trees will create a truly memorable public space,” he said.

“The team at ASH have spent months creating and perfecting the prototypes.

“Now, their hard work is nearing an end with the final pieces in production.

“Once complete, these trees will be carefully transported to the building site in Traralgon for installation.”

Mr Chester said the involvement of the local timber industry in the creative precinct project was an important public show of support.

“I personally approached the construction team and urged them to source local timber,” he said.

“I can’t think of a better way to showcase the exceptional quality of the finished products and the ingenuity of hardworking Gippslanders.

“A project of the size of the creative precinct provides valuable stimulus for the local construction sector and supports local jobs, including businesses like ASH.”

The Latrobe Creative Precinct will involve the construction of a state-of-the-art performing arts centre on land adjacent to the Traralgon Service Centre and library.

Once completed, there will be a 750-seat theatre, an amphitheatre and an indoor and outdoor café.

It is anticipated the precinct will be open for business in mid-2021.