Australian firm Charles Wright Architects has created a unique visitor center in Cairns, Queensland which was inspired by the science-fiction film Predator. The center’s facade features a series of reflective glass panels which almost resemble some sort of armor, while at the same time reflecting the surrounding botanical garden landscape.

“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,” says Charles Wright Architects.

The Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitor Center is closely aligned with an external pedestrian promenade, which weaves its way through the gardens and links to the city’s Arts Center precinct. The thoroughly mapped-out design allows visitors to gain access to information points, performance spaces and rest areas while seamlessly walking through the lush northern-Australian rainforest gardens. It is also hoped that the distorted reflective glass panels, coupled with the abundance of native trees and plant life that surround the structure, will deter birds from colliding with the glass.

The center comprises two structures – a sun-filled north-facing block featuring the information center, exhibition area, multi-purpose hall, a courtyard amphitheater, café and terrace, and the southern block which is dedicated to an office hub for council staff. The office space has been adapted for its tropical climate and incorporates the maximum use of passive cross-ventilation.

“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,” says Charles Wright Architects.

The center incorporates further sustainable systems such as photovoltaic panels which feed solar energy back onto the grid, storm-water harvesting, low-energy light fittings, low water usage fittings, efficient construction materials, solar reflective glass and insulated interior thermal mass throughout to reduce energy loss.

The Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitors Center was the recipient of the 2012 Eddie Oribin Award for Building of the Year, presented by the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). The jury commended the project, stating that is was “a courageous and radical departure from classic crafted and lightweight Queensland visitor centers, this alternative approach to environmental fit has clearly generated a potent sense of place and use of light. Exhibits both outstanding working and visitor environments within a clear sustainability ethos.”

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