An international design competition has been won by architectural firm Henning Larson in collaboration with the Van den Berg Groep to create a unique entrance building at Emmen Zoo in the Netherlands. The theater and zoo entrance incorporates a number of innovative features within its passive solar design including floating walls that allow the spaces within it to be reconfigured according to their required use.

The 16,000 square meter building, which is due to be completed in 2015, is comprised of a theater and cultural center which will be incorporated into the existing zoological grounds as an entrance building. It will contain exhibition and conference facilities and the theater itself, which will house two main stages with a total capacity of 1,150 people.

Envisioned by the architects as a "magic window towards the natural wildlife in the zoo,” the design includes a flowing curved roof modeled on the shape of an animal’s spine that aims to provide a good indoor climate, as well as a comfortable outdoor climate in the urban square under the roof opening with the help of large overhangs on the east and west facade. The shape of the roof also plays an important role in reducing energy consumption by both cooling down the structure through its concrete walls and collecting rainwater for watering the surrounding gardens.

Additionally, water is channeled from the roof in the form of a small waterfall into a fountain at the front of the building. This water can then be used to supplement the water supplies of various canals and lakes around the 10 hectare zoological park.

The large windows on the north facade and small windows on the south, combined with overhead sun-lights in the roof, provide the interior with optimum daylight, enabling energy consumption to be reduced. The large foyer is also designed to provide natural ventilation for the various halls and conference rooms within.

Another notable feature of the winning design are the floating walls. These can be arranged into a variety of combinations, providing the building with a flexible structure that can be tailored to specific occasions. The movable walls can even be opened out to transform small stages into larger open-air stages.

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