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Urban(e) wildlife: fabric and wood cover public park restaurant

Exteriors, Features | January 1, 2012 | By:

Fabric and wood combine for a unique restaurant in Hamilton, New Zealand’s most stunning public park—in the heart of the city

Understand that Hamilton, New Zealand, a sophisticated city of around 200,000 habitants located 120km south of Auckland, had the foresight to preserve a large (54ha), stream-fed lake, Lake Rotoroa, a mere five minutes away from its central business district. Also understand that the city was wise enough to set aside slightly more than half of the land that fronts the lake (aka Hamilton Lake) in two unconnected sections as a land preserve and a public park.

Picture a giant glowing, translucent paper lantern turned horizontal and you have some sense of the dazzling attraction that Hamiltonians have for the facility that dwells at lakeside: The Verandah, café and function center, designed by Chibnall Buckell Marovic –Team Architects (CBM/TA).

Built on the site of an old café on the shores of the Hamilton Lake Domain, the eastern side of Lake Rotoroa, The Verandah includes a children’s playground and sport recreational areas, as well as water sports activities adjacent to a rose garden on the grounds surrounding the center. The café has luncheon seating for 140 (or more than 200 for formal affairs such as weddings or business meetings), and reservable activity rooms. All café and function rooms are designed to have panoramic views and direct access to the lake and active outdoor areas to the west.

The building—a precast frame and glass curtainwall box slightly curved in deference to the lake—is delineated at regular intervals on the lakeside façade by bent gluelam support columns. A taut white skin of PVC fabric is tensioned over these laminated ribs to create a distinctive iconic form that is reflected in the lake’s surface. “The curved steel and timber structure of the canopy is inspired by nearby playground equipment,” says CBM/TA. “And the white membrane of the canopy is inspired by the boat sails and hot air balloons that grace the lake.” According to the designers, the simple palette of gray concrete and timber decking recall the rock boulders and timber boardwalks at the lake’s edge.

The Verandah’s sustainable design includes highly insulated floors, walls and ceilings, and double glazed windows and doors. The café has a passive ventilation system and a floor heated by water supplied from rooftop solar panels. Rainwater is collected from the roof and used for flushing toilets, energy-efficient lighting throughout is placed for maximum efficiency and, most significantly, the tensioned fabric canopy provides sun and glare control as well as minimizes solar heat gain. LED uplights underneath the white membrane provide nighttime glow.

The Verandah garnered a New Zealand Institute of Architects design award in 2010 and a Registered Master Builders Gold Award.

Project Specs / Urban(e) Wildlife: how it was done

Wedge-shaped steel plate brackets cradle the glulam beams and are bolted to the top of the building’s structural columns to make a nice detail of the connection. Pipe cross bracing in the two end bays of each end of the canopy and the center bay transition point where the canopy widens give structural rigidity to the framing system. Cross bracing in all other bays is done with stainless steel cables and marine grade fittings and turnbuckles.

Starting at the top back end of each bent wood rib, a continuously curving track edge (SFX extrusions) on centerline is used to hold the fabric edges of each bay to the curve of the glulam supports, terminating at a hold-down point a third of the way down the front edge of the supports. This brings the bottom edge of the canopy far enough down to cast a useful shadow on any glass wall behind it to keep the restaurant interior out of direct sunlight throughout all seasons. Catenary cables in pockets are welded into the bottom edge of each bay and tensioned to complete the installation.

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