Assembly Architects has turned an elephant's old room at the Wellington Zoo into a charming new tuck shop - a project that was one of several recognized recently by the New Zealand Architecture Awards. In addition to transforming the elephant house, the design team built an additional pavilion topped with a unique roof that resembles a crepe paper lantern. This delightful airy space is designed to give visitors a chance to sit and eat snacks, and can also be used for larger functions.
Tasked with this challenging adaptive reuse project, Assembly Architects was careful to minimize their environmental impact by using the earth excavated in the marquee’s walls and the pathway leading to it. The tuck shop replaces an earlier building that was insufficiently equipped for the task of feeding visitors, but the new space has a transparent roof, public and private space, and even some reptiles!
But the new pavilion is perhaps what impressed New Zealand judges the most. The goal for the elongated shelter was “to build an arched roof made out of the repetition of a single element,” according to the design brief. “Scaled up, each element is stamped out of aluminum and then rolled in two directions. Each piece is joined at the hip to one piece and at the neck to another. Horizontal threaded rods hold the structure in place and stop it distorting.”
The shelter was assembled horizontally and then wrapped in a plastic membrane that permits natural light and breathing room, while also protecting against inclement weather. At night, the setting sun casts enigmatic showers on the walls, enlivening what was once a vibrant zoo that appears to be undergoing something of an identity shift.
Photos by Mike Heydon