The ’Gondwanaland’ hall at Leipzig Zoo provides a significant extension to the compact inner-city zoo and functions as a self-contained visitor attraction in its own right, particularly in winter months. The building is situated along the Pfaffendorfer Strasse on land previously used as workshops and back-of-house facilities.
Gondwanaland is the original continent comprising of South Asia, Africa and South America before continental drift tore them apart. The Zoological theme for this building is to study how certain animal and plant species evolved differently after the continents divided and created different contexts and climates.
The project houses up to 30 live animal species in a rain-forest biotope and climate. Visitors travel through this landscape by automated boat at ground level or through a suspended network of rope bridges above. The boat trip continues underground through an extensive network of caves.
The roof form is a section of a sphere; this refers to the scale of the Gondwanaland theme, but also allows a significant building volume and height (40 metres in the centre) to respond to the adjacent urban context by dropping to 7.5 metres at the corners. The roof form is an economical shell structure only one metre deep, despite the 160 metres span. Suspended from this is a secondary structure of triple-layer ETFE units which are heated to keep the roof snow free in winter months, thereby maintaining full light to the space below and reducing the structural loading on the roof. The geometry of the roof creates an abstract grid when viewed from beneath that prevents an obvious sense of perspective and scale.
On the southern corner, a new entrance to the zoo has been created in the form of a public space that can enjoy a window into the main hall. Extensive conference and gastronomy functions have also been provided in the building.