Modest beginnings, dramatic results
With a complex program intertwining public and private, spectacle and healing, beauty and resolve, the Wildlife Warriors Australian Wildlife Hospital is a didactic building of modest means which embodies a steadfast philosophy of ecological sustainability and unpretentious practicality. The veterinary hospital is a vehicle and a tangible focus for the conservation work of the Wildlife Warriors charity, established in 2004 by Steve and Terri Irwin at Australia Zoo. The new building not only facilitates public awareness in a practical sense, it exemplifies a way forward to solutions for the socio-environmental issues that are the focus of the charity's work.
The hospital was conceived as an exemplar of ecologically sustainable design with the express intention to inspire and educate the public in sustainable building issues and practices. Doing so is a tangible way to expose them to the larger issues of conservation, land-use and biodiversity. The unassuming exterior pays homage to the Australian rural vernacular and alludes to the first Wildlife Warriors hospital – a converted avocado packing shed. The public will come to see the architecture and the animals and leave understanding more about their own impact on the ecosystem.
To this end Webb Duffy Architects considered the building firstly as the threshold between the intimate needs of the injured animals and the unfolding layers of the outside world; from the nearby recovery enclosures, to the zoo, the encroaching suburbs,the bushland habitat and beyond. Light, air, movement and the varying levels of separation and engagement are the catalysts for a dynamic plan within a restricted site. Space and light are wrapped in a varying palette of non-toxic and low embodied energy materials including straw bale, rammed earth, bamboo, recycled flooring and ceilings, and low-VOC finishes. Daylighting, mixed-mode ventilation, water conservation and water harvesting contribute to the low life cycle cost.
At 1300 m2 it is the largest and 'greenest' of its kind in the world.