New visitor centre draws the crowds to Cairns Botanic Gardens
Charles Wright Architects set-out to design a 'green' building which represents a paradigm shift for Cairns, moving away from the conventional building vernaculars toward new and progressive solutions that can be applied anywhere on a tropical latitude. There was a collective desire to attract both national and international attention.
A new, iconic gateway into the botanic gardens and tanks arts centre precinct – 'a democratic public space under-cover' – a challenging new architecture for the tropics which will act as an attractor to assist Cairns in its mission to be seen as a progressive city nationally and globally significant.
The Council called for the building to be long, low and blending seamlessly with the surrounding environment (ideally invisible). The architects proposed a design which literally reflects the gardens as camouflage for the building with visual effect similar to the suit as worn by the alien hunter in the original 1987 Predator film. The new building is sited to straddle and activate the pedestrian promenade linking the gardens with the Arts Centre, acting as an open and flexible conduit into the interpretive and performative spaces. The client engaged in the choice of costed design strategies for the planning and form. The project was delivered under budget.
ESD initiatives include solar panels for feedback into the energy grid, stormwater harvesting tanks, mixed mode air-conditioning systems, low energy light fittings throughout, low water usage fittings, long life cycle efficiency materials and construction, solar treatment to all windows, naturally ventilated circulation corridors and shaded exposed thermal mass internally.
Cairns Regional Council sought fresh and challenging ideas to create a memorable piece of tropical architecture, which has unquestionably been achieved. The Visitors Centre has already become a new landmark for the city. The Centre was awarded 'Building of the Year' at the 2012 Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Queensland Awards.