Student's reptile house hits the mark at Orana

Student's reptile house hits the mark at Orana

A love of art and animals has resulted in a CPIT student project that could be used in the redevelopment of Orana Wildlife Park's native fauna area.

Bachelor of Architectural Studies student Ashley Welsh's innovative concept to replace the current reptile house has led to a close relationship forming between her and the park's team members. She met with the native fauna team last week to discuss the overall vision for this area, "to get them thinking outside the box", she said.

Ashley Welsh
Animal lover and CPIT Bachelor of Architectural Studies student Ashley Welsh with the proposed Reptile House she designed for Orana Wildlife Park. It was displayed at the recent exhibition, EXIT, for final year architectural studies students at CPIT.

Twenty year-old Welsh's relationship with the park began earlier this year when she was exploring various options for her degree major project.

"I ended up having four meetings with Orana's education manager Toby Johnson and we discussed more than one option. It was originally part of a master plan to revamp the native area but we narrowed it down to the reptile house."

This is a 1980s concrete block-bunker style, which currently houses the tuatara, a wide range of native reptiles and some exotics including a turtle and shingle-back lizard, the park's education manager Toby Johnson said.

Having just completed the single biggest project in the zoo's history, a $6 million Great Ape Centre that is home to New Zealand's only gorillas, he said planning work had commenced on infrastructural changes to the café-function centre and entrance building. Planning was also underway on the next major capital project, a New Zealand Native Centre that would enable the park to make a wider contribution to native conservation efforts, he said.

Welsh's ideas had definitely struck a chord with management's vision.

"I would hope that the 'organic' influences of Ashley's design will help shape the New Zealand Native Centre design and future native precinct development, and that when redevelopment of the Reptile House does start we may begin with Ashley's work."

He said the concept moved away from "box-like thinking" of zoo buildings. Welsh's design, which was displayed at the recent CPIT Bachelor of Architectural Studies end of year exhibition EXIT, is based on the shape of a reptile.

"I was inspired by a lizard's form and movement and this is reflected in the latticed-type timber structure and the type of materials used that look like a lizard's scales," she said.

It would be a prefabricated building made of light, sustainable cross laminated timber and was designed to blend into the landscape.

"I'm really excited about taking this project to the next step. I've been in love with Orana Wildlife Park since I started going at the age of four. I wanted to work on a project that would showcase my love of animals and I'm so chuffed that it could become part of a vision for what the park could look like in a few years."

A volunteer at her local SPCA, Welsh has wanted to study art and architecture from the age of 12. She pays tribute to her CPIT tutors for giving her the confidence to extend herself while on her architectural studies course.

"I've had a lot of support in terms of getting out and talking to people. A year ago I wouldn't have been able to put myself out there.  I certainly didn't expect to be in this position at this stage of my career, straight out of school."

Welsh will be meeting with park staff again during December to discuss her concept further for possible integration into Orana's five year plan.