Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre

WINNER – ARCHITECTS INSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA (AIA) 2012 FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND AWARDS – BUILDING OF THE YEAR

We set-out to design a “green” building which represents a paradigm shift for Cairns, moving away from the conventional building vernaculars toward new and progressive solutions that can be applied anywhere on a tropical latitude. Cairns Regional Council sought fresh and challenging ideas to create a memorable piece of tropical architecture, which has unquestionably been achieved. The Visitors Centre has already become a new landmark for the city.

A new, iconic gateway into the botanic gardens and tanks arts centre precinct – “a democratic public space under-cover” – a challenging new architecture for the tropics which will act as an attractor to assist Cairns in its mission to be seen as a progressive city nationally and globally significant.

Council called for the building to be long, low and blending seamlessly with the surrounding environment (ideally invisible). We proposed a design which literally reflects the gardens as camouflage for the building with visual effect similar to the suit as worn by the alien hunter in the original 1987 Predator film. We sited the new building to straddle and activate the pedestrian promenade linking the gardens with the Arts Centre, acting as an open and flexible conduit into the interpretive and performative spaces.

ESD initiatives include solar panels for feedback into the energy grid, stormwater harvesting tanks, mixed mode air-conditioning systems, low energy light fittings throughout, low water usage fittings, long life cycle efficiency materials and construction, solar treatment to all windows, naturally ventilated circulation corridors and shaded exposed thermal mass internally.