Trees take centre stage at Gippsland Performing Arts Centre

Man-made trees are creating a show of their own at the new Gippsland Performing Arts Centre (GPAC).

The last of 10 timber columns in the shape of trees were lifted into position at the arts centre in Traralgon recently.

The timber columns will be a grand feature of the facility’s foyer and highlight advanced engineering techniques within Gippsland’s timber industry. The foyer will contain the box office for the state-of-the-art theatre, a new café and Traralgon’s Visitor Information Centre.

The trunks will reach 8.5m high and are made using timber milled locally in Heyfield by Australian Sustainable Hardwoods. They were assembled by TGA Engineers in Bayswater by glue-laminating timber lengths together to produce superior strength.

Each column takes approximately 16 hours to make before they are sanded, polished and have custom fabricated steel connections attached. The members are then bolted together and capped with timber plugs to conceal the fixings.

The trunks are made from Victorian Ash, which has some of the best strength-to-weight ratios of any timber internationally, saving manufacturing time and using 40 per cent less timber than making the same product using European timbers.

“These tree columns are a celebration of Gippsland’s timber and engineering industries, and being so beautiful, will create a dramatic impression when theatre-goers enter the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre,” Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson said.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the installation of the feature trees at the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre was a fantastic milestone for the project.

“This is a wonderful acknowledgement and achievement for local business Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) in Heyfield, that manufactured the Victorian Ash timber products used to create the trees,” he said.

“It is incredibly important that large scale infrastructure projects in our region support and invest in our local businesses.”

The arts centre will include a state-of-the-art theatre, with a 25m high fly tower, 750 seats across two levels, conference/meeting rooms, a café and outdoor event spaces.

The fly tower is used for flying in stage backdrops, lighting rigs, curtains and other equipment needed for small to large productions. The Latrobe Creative Precinct is due to be completed in the second half of 2021.

The project has been made possible by collaborative investment from the Australian Government’s Community Development Grants Programme ($10 million), the Victorian Government’s Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund ($10 million) and Latrobe City Council.

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