The Isle of Wight Zoo is considering a redevelopment of its site and approached the University’s Architecture Project Office for help. The scheme operates as a real architectural consultancy, providing the close links between the School of Architecture and external stakeholders and client organisations.
The Zoo, which specialises in big cats and promotes the survival of endangered species, dates back to the 1950s and is situated within the walls of a Victorian fort. Based around the ethos of conservation, the zoo is a family enterprise run by Zoo Director, Charlotte Corney at the helm. Charlotte first met the University students 9 months ago and has seen their designs develop into a final plan to improve the visitor experience and the animals’ habitat.
She said: “I’ve been extremely impressed with the students’ professional approach and handling of the project. This is a large-scale development in an unusual location making for a challenging brief which the students approached with enthusiasm and flair. They have delivered an original and compelling proposal which will form the basis of the scheme’s master-plan.”
Frances Sheridan, a Postgraduate Architecture Diploma student who graduates this month, was one of the students involved in the initiative. She said that working on a tangible project had bridged the gap between being a student and entering practice.
She said: “The Isle of Wight Zoo is a really special place with a significant history and unique circumstances. My idea looked to the future of the site becoming a developing centre for tiger conservation, possibly to a time when we completely lose tigers in the wild.
“And its location in a rather outlying area just outside of Sandown, suggested to me that it would benefit from being more closely linked with the town to draw people in and I came up with the idea of a landmark tower.”
The students each had an individual interpretation of how the zoo could be re-designed but each proposal could be used standalone or in harmony with the others as part of a grand redevelopment project. Interior designs students focussed their efforts on the visitor centre and café while architecture students concentrated on the overall site.
Postgraduate Architecture Diploma student Stephen Dryburgh, 24, was involved on the year-long project. He saw the zoo developing as a cultural centre with spaces for photographers and painters to capture the animals artistically and an education centre for children to learn more about conservation.
He said: “I saw it as giving the zoo more of a cultural identity and a place for local people to engage with on all kinds of different levels.”
The students’ work has been consolidated into a project book and presented to the owners for them to decide on the future of the site as part of a SEEDA funded initiative.