OLA nestles rattan-woven pods at melbourne zoo for immersive lemur exhibit
all images © drew echberg

 

 

 

built especially for the lemur exhibit at melbourne zoo, OLA architecture studio undertook the project together with landscape architects urban initiatives and arterial design. aiming to distill a distinctive zoo experience for visitors, the immersive outdoor exhibit features an ‘entry tunnel’ and a tree house that sit at each end in between the walk-through display.

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the existing rainforest trail now has a high impact entry exhibit, where visitors and lemurs interact in an up close
and personal environment

 

 

 

the main element of the design is the tree house, which visualizes as a collection of geometric pods that are nestled together. the connected volumes provide the playful focal point for the lemur experience. simultaneously, they function as the necessary buffer to provide a staged exit for visitors leaving the aviary where the animals and visitors share the same space.

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entrance tunnel is marked by the woven rattan canopy

 

 

 

the pods establish a sympathetic and sensitive relation to its rainforest landscape. wrapped in a woven skin, the matte black structural steel and recycled timbers complement the rich, organic weave of the rattan walls. during the development stages of the created landscape, sustainability was a factor that led to the choice in recycled materials, long-term and low lifetime impact solutions. by minimizing environmental impact and creating a distinctive experience, visitors can simultaneously be transported to a scenery beyond the grounds of the zoo and inherently, ‘encourages the public about matters of habitat preservation and sustainability through design is possibly its greatest contribution to environmental sustainability.’

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built components such as the entry tunnel and tree house provide bookends to the immersive experience

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the entry tunnel hints at what lies ahead and heightens anticipation

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 the pods provide a sheltered and contained space with elevated, curated views over the exhibit

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the material palette is restrained and sympathetic to the lemurs’ rainforest landscape

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the tree house design is a collection of similar geometric ‘pods’; supported with a matte black structural steel frame

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there was a focus on minimizing environmental impact through active reuse of the existing defunct exhibit

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recycled materials were specified and a preference for low maintenance, low lifetime impact materials adopted

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the pods were fabricated and woven in pieces off-site and craned into their final position