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Timber Design Awards

Wellington Zoo Ampitheatre

The building provides an exceptional response to an interesting and challenging brief. The internal light filtering devices, expressed timber structure and finishing system has been carried off in a well crafted and elegant way.

The Wellington Zoo Amphitheatre is located in the heart of the zoo and is used as a multi-purpose semi open air theatre for animal encounters and various other performances and functions. The brief was to design a signature building which would act as an attractor for zoo visitors. The design solution focused on using very simple and robust building technologies and construction systems. These were deployed in such a way as to create a highly elegant and carefully crafted solution.

The floor systems are all concrete but, except for concrete block walls to the animal enclosures, the superstructure is an all timber based system. Timber was selected for its robustness, value, esd qualities and ease of construction. Dunning Thornton Consultants worked with Jasmax to produce a very simple primary structural solution that dovetailed with the form and function of the theatre. This system is fully exposed internally and consists of parallel portal fames constructed of plywood clad timber framing supproting LVL beams. The portals act as the proscenium arches and delineate the main zoo pathway which passes between the seating and the stage.

Between them there is a skylight which highlights this pathway and floods the interior with natural light. Structurally the portals act as the main bracing system for the entire structure and act as beams supporting the principle LVL roof frames. These frames, in turn, fold down to form the main frame for the inclined rear wall of the theatre. The side walls are LVL studs which are clad in polycarbonate sheeting. All secondary framing is timber. Timber finishes to the interior include ceiling and wall linings in hoop pine plywood.

These are slotted in various locations for acoustic treatment. The concrete bleachers have saligna slat seats. The gates at each end of the path are cedar slats on a steel sub-frame. Timber proved to be a very appropriate choice both for the expressed structure and as a finishing system.

It gives the theatre both robustness and warmth. Aside from being excellent value as a system it was easy to erect and to connect. Importantly, timber systems were well understood by the contractors but through considered design the result showed to all how a simple system can be rendered into a very elegant solution.


2008 Timber Design Awards: Highly Commended, Commercial Architectural Excellence