Watching jumbo jets discharge international travellers in their hundreds at Brisbane Airport is such a familiar scene that it’s hard to believe barely 60 years have passed since the first heroic flight across the Pacific.
June 9, 1928 was the historic day Charles Kingsford-Smith and his crew touched down at Eagle Farm, Brisbane, after their 83-hour flight from San Francisco.
The flight was completed in Kingsford-Smith’s famous Southern Cross, a 22-metre-long Fokker F-7 aircraft equipped with three Wright Whirlwind J5 200 hp engines.
After many more epic flights with “Smithy” and his crew, the Southern Cross came to rest at Brisbane Airport.
The Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial, located at Brisbane Airport and completed in 1988, was designed by Noel Robinson Architects. The building houses an important piece of Australian aviation history, the Southern Cross—a 22-metre-long Fokker F.VIIb/3m that was flown in 1928 by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew across the Pacific from San Francisco to Brisbane’s Eagle Farm, an epic 83-hour flight. The Memorial thus stores a delicate object that remains perpetually on display for public viewing.
The building takes reference from the aircraft hangar typology as a single-span sprung roof that founds on landscaped berms acting as structural corbels, sensitively integrating the roof form with the surrounding undulating terrain. The design cleverly implements passive design principles of orientation and overhang to protect the Southern Cross from direct solar exposure, yet also allows clear visibility of the content. The details are well considered and of a high calibre. The glazing is hung and sloped to remove visual obstructions and minimise reflectivity when the aircraft is viewed and photographed.
This project is an exemplary piece of public architecture that protects an important part of Australian history. Simple, well considered, and well executed, through many layers of conceptual and technical consideration, this museum is an enduring piece of architecture that has remained firmly and steadfastly on public display since its completion.