Bligh Tanner wins design competition for Cochlear inspired design


Australian engineering firm, Bligh Tanner has won a design competition for its innovative Cochlear inspired design that will form a major sculptural installation at the 250 hectare National Arboretum in Canberra.
The Engineers Australia Freefall Experience Design Ideas Competition invited engineers, designers and other creative professionals from around the country to design a showcase installation for the Engineers Australia Freefall Pin Oak Forest at the National Arboretum.

The $30,000 first prize was awarded to Bligh Tanner in an announcement made by ACT Minister for the Environment, Simon Corbell, MLA on 1 August.

Mr Rolfe Hartley, past National President of Engineers Australia and Chairman of the Honorary Competition Jury said, ‘The winning entry ‘Freefall’ stood out. The work was superbly elegant in its engineering, immersive and contextual and above all intriguing for visitors to the forest.’

‘Freefall’ is a transparent flowing sculpture of corten and stainless steel and rock that moves through the trees, terminating as a spiral. The shape and sensory experience is inspired by the Cochlear implant – a world renowned Australian engineering feat. The installation includes an interactive system that senses its surroundings and interacts with visitors to the site.

The collaborative team was led by structural engineer, Rod Bligh, and included two artists, Susan Milne and Greg Stonehouse, and architect, Nick Flutter.

‘The opportunity to construct a landscape scale sculpture celebrating 100 years of Engineers Australia at the magnificent National Arboretum is an incredible honour. Our team is looking forward to working closely with Engineers Australia and the National Arboretum to create a meaningful and beautiful work,’ said Bligh.

Realisation of the physical structure is intended to coincide with the 2019 Centenary of Engineers Australia with further enhancement to correspond with the Centenary of the Canberra Division in 2027.

Image Credits | Bligh Tanner

2023 WLA Professional Awards registrations close on Friday, March 17, 2023, at 11:59pm London, UK.
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Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at