The Wellington Zoo Amphitheatre is a multi purpose performance space. The primary challenge was to create a powerful and symbolic building with a very tight budget. The most difficult – and hence innovative aspect of the project – was opening up the rear of the theatre in a way that was technically simple, robust and yet elegant whether open or closed.
The building is comprised of tiered seating covered by a simple lean-to roof that folds down to an inclined rear wall. The roof at its lower edge is staggered and the rear wall stepped to allude to the concept of a traditional (radial) amphitheatre. The sides are semi-enclosed with translucent plastic sheeting. The rear wall folds open to a public area allowing the audience to overflow on fine summer days.
The zoo context demanded a robust building. In response, we worked with very simple and effective building technologies but deployed them in a highly crafted way: areas of striated wood soften and warm the space; rigorous attention to critical details – flashings in particular – give a fineness to its edges; the translucent sheeting creates a light effect that is soft and slightly mysterious and when lit up in the evenings it glows like a lantern in the heart of the zoo.