Integrating heritage, sustainability and specialist functions into a public space
By 2004 the natural beauty of the Taronga Site had become seriously compromised by years of ad-hoc development. Externally the beauty of the sandstone plateau setting was overwhelmed by traffic flow and poor ticketing facilities. The original 1916 entry building, Zoo walls and giant fig trees had become lost behind the clutter or poorly considered additions. Arriving at the Zoo had become stressful, dangerous and visually displeasing.
The client brief aimed to resolve the traffic conflict by creating parking for several hundred additional cars and providing improved services for ticketing, toilets, information and retail. BVN worked closely with stakeholders to establish architectural and urban design principles which were to focus on the landscape; to reinforce the nature of the Zoo as a walled garden; and allow visitors to experience the entry to the Zoo as a promenade.
The final project includes parking for approximately 750 cars and 12 coaches, and provides for large volumes of bus movements. Several new buildings have been constructed including the carpark, the zoo shop and cafe, and a facilities building with ticketing, toilets and information. The heritage listed upper entrance building and tram shed have been carefully refurbished, including the decorative Victorian 'animalia' on the facades. Pathways, canopies and garden plazas have also been created.
The project places the emphasis firmly back on the beauty of the zoo landscape as a unique walled enclosure within which a sandstone plateau affords chance glimpses of the harbour through bush land and incongruous wildlife. The new precinct has transformed the visitor experience, not just of the entry itself but of the entire zoo. In urban terms, the new upper entrance precinct at Taronga Zoo allowed the unique opportunity to legibly integrate heritage, sustainability and specialist functions into a public space to be enjoyed by all sectors of society.