LocationMelbourne Zoo, Elliott Avenue, Parkville VIC 3052, Australia
Landscape ArchitectsUrban Initiatives
Interpretive DesignersArterial Design
Construction CompanyLloyd Group
Text description provided by the architects. The new Lemur exhibit at the Melbourne Zoo, a project undertaken in collaboration with Urban Initiatives (Landscape Architects) and Arterial Design (Interpretive Designers), is an example of Architecture contributing to the delivery of a contemporary Zoo experience. The existing Rainforest Trail now has a high impact entry exhibit, where visitors and Lemurs interact in an up close and personal environment.
Built components such as the Entry Tunnel and Tree House provide bookends to the immersive experience of the walk-through exhibit. The Entry Tunnel hints at what lies ahead and heightens anticipation, while the Tree House provides an opportunity for reflection and engagement with the conservation messages of the precinct.
The Tree House provides the playful focal point for the fully immersive Lemur exhibit experience. It functions as the necessary ‘airlock’ providing a staged exit for visitors leaving the aviary where Lemurs and visitors share the same space. Contrasting with the preceding experience of complete immersion, it provides a sheltered and contained space with elevated, curated views over the exhibit. The Tree House design is a collection of similar geometric ‘pods’, nestled together so that no two pods are the same.
The pods were fabricated and woven in pieces off-site and craned into their final position. The material palette is restrained and sympathetic to the Lemurs’ rainforest landscape; matt black structural steel and recycled timbers complement the rich, organic weave of the rattan walls. While quite a departure from the all encompassing immersion of the preceding exhibit space, the Tree House similarly continues the precinct’s mission to transport the visitor far beyond the grounds of the Melbourne Zoo
There was a focus on minimising environmental impact through active reuse of the existing defunct exhibit, including alteration of the existing moat to accommodate a new waterway. Recycled materials were specified and a preference for low maintenance, low lifetime impact materials adopted. The way the Tree House engages with and encourages the public about matters of habitat preservation and sustainability through design is possibly its greatest contribution to environmental sustainability.