Situated in a park setting covered with mature trees, the Staten Island Zoo is a naturalistic, didactic oasis within a dense urban setting. As part of that larger project of redesigning the Children’s Farmstead at the Staten Island Zoo, we were charged with creating an enclosure for a new carousel commissioned by the zoo.
Our concept was to create an enclosure that is light in every sense: a visually light-filled almost transparent gem in the park and light on the land, exerting minimal impact on the site and environment.
INNOVATIVE FOUNDATION TO MINIMIZE IMPACT ON TREES:
The master plan programming led us to logically locate the carousel adjacent to the primary concession area, concentrating commercial activity in this one zone in order to protect the park-like perimeter. The density of mature trees throughout the site presented an enormous dilemma. The site we selected was one of the least disruptive to the existing trees. However, the carousel and its enclosure required foundations that would kill several mature oak trees if a conventional foundation was used.
After extensive investigation, we found a foundation system that had been used for board walk structures which introduces the load to the soil through a diamond shaped pier resting at the surface of the soil. The load is distributed through the use of metal pins which project through the pier and mobilize the entire footprint encompassed within the pins—thereby spreading the load across a large area without introducing large physical elements (like footings or piles) and without digging. This system had not been used for a building before. Working with our structural engineers, our team had to prove the viability and justifying the use of this foundation to the Department of Buildings and the Parks Department. Ultimately it was approved. The carousel and enclosure were built between the dense mature trees without disturbing their root systems. The trees are intact and healthy and they are integral to the performance of the new enclosure.
INNOVATIVE ROOFING MATERIAL TO MAXIMIZE NATURAL LIGHT
As a year-round attraction, the carousel enclosure had to provides shelter and thermal comfort through all seasons. One of the shortcomings of most carousel enclosures is that they cast a shadow on the carousel, making it very difficult to see the actual carousel inside when you are outside of the enclosure on a bright sunny day, particularly if the carousel is enclosed by glass. The glass reflects the exterior when the interior is darker than the exterior.
Comprised of transparent operable glass panels and a transparent ETFE roof, our enclosure is a jewel like structure. The transparency of the walls and roof allow natural light to fill the enclosure making it possible the clearly see the ornate carousel even when the glass panels are all closed. It also provides natural illumination for those riding. The glass panels slide open, stacking over each other to provide 50% open walls on summer days- making an even stronger connection between interior and exterior when the weather permits.
INNOVATIVE INTEGRATION OF NATURE AND ARCHITECTURE
In order to passively heat and cool the interior we integrated the trees and the innovative skin into a symbiotic heating and ventilation system. The trees that we preserved help us modulate the temperature and light within the enclosure. Trees are an important for the aesthetics and visual quality of the zoo but also as a passive component of the building performance.
During the summer, the tree canopy provides shade, reducing the heat gain and blocking some of the light. By opening the glass panels as well as a controllable damper at the top of the roof, we allow passive natural ventilation in the summer beneath the shade of tree canopy. In the winter, when the leaves have fallen, the amount of sun entering the enclosure is maximized. By closing the panels and the rooftop damper, the air is allowed to warm the interior in the colder months.