Due to expanding giraffe numbers, the Auckland Zoo needed a new giraffe breeding shelter; essentially a functional oversized shed with two dens and a keeper area.
The design team responded to the brief by proposing a shelter that assumed an understated external appearance, whose mass was playfully broken down with intersecting roof forms that articulated the junction between the two dens, while accentuating the collision of human and giraffe scales. Studies were made through sections of the internal volumes to accommodate a number of functional and operational overlaps, and the disparity in scale of its occupants.
The floor to ceiling rises from 9 to 32 feet, with humans entering into the keeper’s area at the low point of the roof. The elevations were a key formal driver of the design, with careful consideration given the proportions of the 19-foot doors with integrated human door and clerestory windows.
Flexibility was a primary objective of the shelter – due to the changing functional and physiological needs of the giraffe. Moveable doors and walls allow the space to be transformed. The four sliding exterior doors open to different yards that can be configured to allow for separate roaming areas for the giraffes. Keepers and vets use the mezzanine level to observe and interact with the giraffes. It also allows for small visitor groups to safely view the giraffes.
Working with a tight budget, the view was taken that a unique, fit for purpose shelter could be produced using a simple, reduced palette of locally sourced materials and vernacular construction methodologies.