Charles Wright Architects took inspiration from the movie Predator when they chose to clad the new Cairns Botanical Gardens visitor center in Australia with an armor of reflective panels. Comprised of two buildings and a central promenade, the visitor center melts into the surrounding landscape by mirroring tropical trees and plants. And there's even more to the project than meets the eye - including a host of strategies that reduce its energy and water consumption.
The visitor center is clad in a series of flat panels that are each placed at different angles, warping the reflecting landscape in interesting ways. Likewise the building itself bends to accommodate existing pathways and trees, creating a curvilinear structure that invites visitors to explore its interior offerings. One building houses a cafe and exhibition space and leads to an outdoor amphitheater, while the other is used as offices for employees.
Charles Wright Architects was very concerned to make the $4.7 million project sustainable over the long run by incorporating energy and water saving initiatives, rainwater harvesting and material efficiency. These initiatives include low energy lighting and low water plumbing, on-site solar panels that feed energy back into the national grid, interior thermal massing that traps heat loss, passive cross ventilation and ceiling fans, and individual AC control that mitigates excess energy use. Although some bird lovers will worry about the reflective material’s impact on the local birdlife, this award-winning mixed use building acts as a gateway to the botanical gardens that showcase a slew of tropical trees and plants native to both Australia and Southeast Asia.