Zoo Hotel and Circus School

Exterior night render of Hotel and Circus School

Exterior night render of proposed design for a Wellington Zoo Hotel and Circus School

The tensegrity forms were developed from Buckminster Fullers designs and were intended as a play on the traditional circus tent and poles. The extruded structure hints at the internal form as and people approach the building and the visitors experience a spatial transition as they enter. The angular poles contrast with the earthly materials and vertical lines of the hotel building. The main tensegrity form is positioned in top of a glass entrance space so it appears as if it is floating. Sections of this glass are stacked divisions to link it to the hotel. Visitors and performers move up from this space via the spiral stair of lift and into the area surrounding the hexagonal arena. This space is used for practices and training equipment but can be transformed with pull out seating to provide for performances. The smaller tensegrity space is pentagonal in plan and holds the backstage areas, storage and changing rooms. The circus school is located so it can also make use of the sports track and existing recreational facilities.

The design for the exterior panels was inspired by the optical and kinetic art of Venezuelan artist Jaime Gili. His imagery evokes a sense of chaos and movement in the layers of triangular fragments. He describes his work as ‘commotion slowed to a halt’. I translated this idea into the circus design as capturing a moment in the performance. Lighting at night represents the extravagance of the circus experience. These panels allow light to enter the interior space and also provide views to the exterior. Passersby can also view the performers as they practice, creating a sense of the exhibition of the inhabitants. Roll down blinds can enclose the space and provide privacy and shading when required. I feel these two concepts of tensegrity and optical art complement each other and result in a dynamic spatial experience.

(Note: See ‘Zoo Hotel’ for more information regarding hotel design)


Wellington Zoo Hotel Presentation

Wellington Hotel and Circus School Architecture Presentation

Wellington Hotel and Circus School Architecture Presentation

My assignment for a Wellington Zoo Hotel and Circus School was inspired by an image of an x-ray of one of the animals seen on a site visit to the zoo as well as the textures and patterns of the enclosures and animals. The project was about representing layers of transparencies and expressing structural systems. The zoo hotel is a spinal form made up of three components; the ‘vertebrae’ (rooms), the ‘spinal cord’ (bridge) and the ‘cartilage’ (glass divisions). The steel structure is exposed on the exterior and interior of the building to express a ‘skeletal form’. This is then inset with varying compositions of timber slats, glazing or concrete walls. The hotel can be considered the ‘positive’ form while the circus school is the ‘negative’ reflection of this with its exposed structural elements. It is an exoskeleton in contrast to the solidity of the hotel. The circus appears ‘light’ and permeable with the structural components reflecting the dynamic acrobatic movement. The form comprises of two intersecting tensegrity structures with steel poles and tensions ties. Patterned mesh screens on the exterior enclose the building with glass insets within the gaps to expose most of the structure.