Establishing a strong connection between Hamilton Zoo and Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, Te Kaaroro Nature Precinct aims to enhance the visibility and cultural identity of two of Kirikiriroa's most loved tourist destinations. Working with Edwards White Architects, we wanted to transform the underperforming civic assets into an engaging and inclusive world class visitor destination.
We engaged in a process of intensive research, co-creation and conceptual development that celebrates the region's natural assets and its rich cultural heritage with tangata whenua. Our inspiration for the precinct design came from the cultural narratives gifted by mana whenua.
Historically this site was a place of connection, a resting spot for travellers as well as an abundant source of kai, in what was formally a kaakaa parrot forest. This precinct is a literal connection between the Zoo and Waiwhakareke, as well as a place where people can come and connect both with each other, the history of the area and the flora and fauna being restored in a natural space. The precinct is now home to 600 native and exotic animals, as well as New Zealand's largest walk-through aviary.
Landscaping, architecture, interiors and way-finding cohesively communicate the gifted cultural narrative and a focus on conservation and our connection with nature. Materials, finishes and forms were all designed and chosen for their connection to the wider Te Kaaroro story of conservation and connection.
A singular roof canopy that spans across the road references the kaakaa narrative, functioning as outstretched wings and the gateway to the precinct. Mimicking the kaakaa's prized under-feathers, red and brown tones in the timber canopy link the interior and exterior. Landscaping elegantly integrates vehicle parking, while educational nature paths and a viewing tower offer deeper opportunities for visitors to engage and interpret their context.
Te Kaaroro has become a sanctuary for rest and restoration in the midst of a busy city and has begun to promote a sense of collective conservational responsibility among locals and visitors alike.