Text description provided by the architects. The Otago Natural History Trust is focused on providing an area of native forest where indigenous plants and animals can live in the wild without threat from most introduced pests. The Trust has established a mainland island and sanctuary just north of Dunedin.
The client asked for a truly New Zealand building – something that fits into the landscape. This visitor centre is about the interpretation of this place and the discovery of landscape as a repository of unique flora, fauna and histories of local people.
As with all New Zealand landscapes, microclimate defines not only the soil types, plants and animals but also how we live and build. The Orokonui Ecosanctuary Visitor Centre is located on the upper slopes of Mopanui and Mihiwaka. The site is typically misty and the vegetation is described as a ‘Cloud Forest’. There can be high winds throughout the seasons with snow and ice in winter. In summer, droughts are not uncommon.
The design and construction of the visitor centre is an attempt to respond to these conditions and to answer the user needs.