Organic Tree Shade Structure at the Australian Open

Organic Tree Shade Structure at the Australian Open


Project specifications

The Australian Open – AO23 – needed a stunning structure that would shade fans, look amazing during day and night, and provide flamboyant television images from drone, chopper and ground view shots for television.

Unique challenges

The parameters for this project were unique. The structure needed to be visually beautiful in daylight, provide excellent shade coverage for patron comfort, and then transform into a light show at night. 

It needed to be a temporary structure, so not using any excavation or concrete footings, and installed in 14 days on site and disassembled in less time after the event.

One of the most technically challenging aspects of the project was the steel fabrication and connection detailing. There were massive loads on the tree trunk connection points and there was very complex geometry, so modelling and fabricating these connections needed to be spot on.

Lastly, it needed to be designed, engineered, fabricated and installed in just 14 weeks. 

Timeframe was key in the process and proved to be one of the biggest challenges in this project – especially in the late calendar months of the hot summer.


We spent the first week planning, including a detailed breakdown of every component of the design, engineering, fabrication and installation process.

The plan included ongoing Finite Element analysis that could provide member sizes every time we slightly changed geometry during the architectural phase. This FEA process, along with detailed planning, meant we could adhere to the short timeline.

We extensively experimented with prototypes to create the shade patterns required for the day/night visual design. Stretch compensations on the 2 proposed materials varied in both directions. Our successful solution involved pre-sewing and adjusting compensations before seaming.

As time was tight, It was imperative all teams and stakeholders were communicating well. Weekly calls with all involved helped us nut out challenges to make sure steel, fabric, installation and lighting worked in harmony.

The end result was “The Organic Tree”: a flamboyant shade structure that made the AO23 fan experience more comfortable by creating shade, and more memorable by creating visual impact day and night. 

All this on time, on brief, and within budget – creating work that’s never been done before. We’re incredibly proud that this project won us the 2023 Specialised Textile Association Award for Best Shade Structure.

Location: Birrarung Marr, Melbourne
Client: Australian Open
Sector: Shade Structure