It is a wonderful feeling when something totally exceeds your expectations and quite blows you away. When it actually triggers something inside you that makes you see the world in a whole new way. This was the effect that two tour guides had on me when I visited the PlantBank at Mount Annan. It seemed like an interestingly enough way to spend a Sunday afternoon but turned out to be so much more.
The key ingredient that triggered my thought process was passion. These guides absolutely adored their work place. Day after day they turned up at the PlantBank and each time they arrived with pride, motivation and infectious enthusiasm.
The PlantBank opened almost exactly a year ago and is a major centre for plant science in Australia. Eventually it will house 200 million living seeds, all stored in a thermally efficient refrigerated vault that can withstand the threat of bush fire, representing all 25,000 of Australia’s plant species. Australia is actually the fifth most important country in the world for mega diversity of flora; indeed 85% of our plants are unique to Australia.
It was fascinating to see the facilities and displays, hear the stories of new breakthroughs in the treatment of melanoma using native plants, see the trials of new garden plants and the bright green jars of tissue culture. But our guides were not only energised by the work that goes on at the PlantBank, they loved the physical PlantBank itself.
The building is an example of architectural brilliance. It combines all the latest thinking on solar access, natural airflows and sun blades to provide an environment that needs virtually no artificial heating or cooling, 365 days a year. No noisy pumps, no freezing air blowing at you, no cold mornings in winter, just naturally warmed and cooled fresh air and wonderful natural daylight. The simplest things are always the best.
The building not only works fabulously, it looks stunning too. It has the perfect blend of new and old materials; modern glass and concrete grounded by ancient local sandstone and sweet smelling mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) veneer. So often new and old looks disjointed, but when it is done well nothing can beat it.
It made me think about how much more effective we are when we work and live in surroundings that we love and are energised by. So why is it so rare that we feel this passion and see this beauty?
Sadly, I think it is indicative of the desire by most for quantity over quality. There is a trend for larger and larger houses but with cheaper and cheaper materials, less and less innovative or creative thought and less and less outdoor space. People just want more and will sacrifice beauty, functionality, long term efficiency and the wonderful feeling of serenity that gorgeous surroundings bring, in order to have the extra room or two. How can we have got stuck in this trap?
Maybe people feel it is unachievable for them. Maybe they think it is out of their price range. Maybe they doubt their skills to be able to pull it off. Maybe some genuinely don’t see the benefit of creating a beautiful environment around them; they don’t believe it would make them feel any different. But these two guides demonstrated first hand what an incredible impact your surroundings can have.
Paul and I have been playing with the idea of buying a very small house on a not so small property for some time now. We need to have our main base in Sydney for his work but we both love the countryside, we love walking, we love beautiful, expansive gardens and it would be a dream to create our own little patch of rural gorgeousness. I had a one or two bed stone cottage in my head, something with history and ‘soul’ and generous wooden window frames.
After our visit to the PlantBank we have significantly revised our search. We can now envisage a wonderful modern house on our country property – we don’t need to be so constrained in our thinking. There needs to be thought in the design of a house, but it doesn’t have to be old to be beautiful, special and create the homely feelings that we are looking for. It has broadened my mind, opened up new possibilities and made me fully appreciate the importance of passion and the amazing possibilities of innovative property design. I feel inspired to get out there and create my little patch of gorgeousness – I hope you do too!