For 48 years La Garenne zoo had occupied a site below the village of Le Vaud .In 2013 a project took shape to move the entire zoo to a much bigger neighbouring site. A new concept was developed, featuring an educational trail that links up the various aviaries and enclosures, moving from a pastoral landscape to an alpine setting and ending with a treetop walkway among the trees of the local forest.
LOCALARCHITECTURE was commissioned to design an entrance pavilion for the new zoo. The key challenge for the architects was therefore to incorporate into this setting a built structure that would provide the necessary entrance functions and define the new identity of La Garenne zoo.
Right from the start of their research the architects focused on the question of limits and boundaries – an inherent aspect of a zoological park: the park perimeters, access ways and entrances, public areas, barriers formed by plants and by built structures, etc. The entrance pavilion itself is a boundary, aligned as it is with the natural border formed by the strip of woodland along Route Du Bois-Laurent at the lower end of the site. The pavilion building is the only way of accessing the site, acting as a filter between the outside world and the reinvented natural world of the zoological park.
The indentations of the building’s design are used to define the two key public spaces: the entrance forecourt on one side and the zoo’s central hub on the other. Crossing this building signals to visitors that they are entering the zoo – and they do this at the centre, the narrowest point of the structure. Arriving through this restricted channel gives visitors the feeling of gaining direct, immediate access to the world of the zoo.
The pavilion’s primary functional elements are incorporated successively along its length. The ends of the building open out to create spaces at either end: for the reception and shop on one side, leading to the restaurant, and for a multi-purpose event space on the other.
The roof also dips at the centre, highlighting the entrance point and rising away on either side to accommodate the adjacent reception facilities.
STRUCTURE AND IDENTITY
The curved building volume is defined by the wide roof structure, which is extended by overhanging eaves connected to the ground by angled wooden verticals. This non-rectangular supporting structure references organic, natural forms, while at the same time creating an alternating effect between the infilled triangles, which bear the load of the building, and the glazed, transparent triangles which open up views of the entrance area and the park interior.
On the other side this ‘interwoven’, alternating structure becomes the roof structure that shapes and defines the interior spaces, making optimal use of the surface area and ensuring that the pavilion retains its functional flexibility over time.
ASPECTS OF THE CONSTRUCTION
The construction concept is rational and economical, based as it is on the repetition of a regular grid scheme. The elements are largely prefabricated, permitting rapid, efficient construction. The choice of this kind of structure also makes the building easy to de-construct and facilitates recycling. The building uses materials of controlled and certified provenance. All the structural timber is FSC-certified or equivalent.The building as a whole earned Certificat d’Origine Bois Suisse accreditation for its use of Swiss wood. Timber construction represents 157 m3 of the built volume: in other words, 97% of the building materials used are Swiss in origin.
Because the new structure sits on a raft at ground level – the level of the entrance forecourt – and did not require any excavations, it was fully prefabricated and the prefabricated elements were assembled on site, minimising the construction period. Each triangle of the façade represents a finished prefabricated unit which simply needed to be installed on the site. The triangle structure has a timber frame and the roof comprises a system of prefabricated wooden box units. The design is therefore deliberately lightweight – easy to dismount and to adapt as necessary over time.
The building derives its faceted appearance from the vertical fold-lines incorporated in the window panels. The structure as a whole breaks down into equal arc segments, creating the basis for a system of repeated structural elements – including the prefabricated wooden panels, the glazed triangles and the metal fascia elements on the roof.
Photography by Matthieu Gafsou