Across numerous cultures and professional disciplines, there is an important ongoing dialogue questioning the role that humans play in the changes occurring in ecosystems around the world. A botanical conservatory in the 21st century has the potential to play a critical role in shaping how a community perceives, understands and interacts with nature and sustainability. The new conservatory at Assiniboine Park Conservancy presents an opportunity to challenge the perceptions of many generations of Canadians by creating transcendent experiences of natural environments found beyond the climate of the prairies. It will provide the educational tools to learn about diverse ecosystems and their interrelationship to contemporary human culture.
As the primary architectural focal-point, the biome structures are the outcome of an organic but ordered integrated design process. Explorations of forms, materials and structure all came together to realize a design strategy that resolved the exotic climate requirements within the biomes with the extreme climate characteristics without. The program called for two distinct biomes - subtropical and Mediterranean – as well as a Butterfly Garden and a Display House for rotating exhibitions of varied plant-life from diverse parts of the world. The biome as “living classroom” provides an interactive, flexible platform for multi-generational learning programs and special events critical to the notion of a 21st century botanical conservatory.
Site: The Leaf is strategically located with central structural diagrid anchoring the northeastern extent of the Cultural Mosaic Garden’s central axis. The new conservatory is oriented to maximize year-round sun exposure to sustain the plants within. Sensitively orientation, the terrace to the north of the service building looks out over the commons while the Butterfly Biome above offers a rare vantage point for spectacular views of Assiniboine Park and of the city of Winnipeg.