Lemur Forest Adventure


Project Design Lead: Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture

Client: Taronga Zoo

Location: Taronga Zoo, Mosman, Sydney, Australia

Project Team: 

  • Hills Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects (Architecture)
  • Fiona Robbe Landscape Architects (Play Consultant)
  • SDA (Civil and Structural Engineers)
  • Lighting Art + Science (Lighting and Electrical Engineers)
  • AJ Whipps Consulting Group (Hydraulic Engineers)

Taronga Zoo’s Lemur Forest Adventure is an experientially rich project which brings together play, education, interpretation and animal care.

The design collaboration, led by Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture and Hill Thalis Architecture & Urban Projects, gives physical form to Taronga’s interactive agendas and themes, including lemur welfare and conservation, interpretation of place, and the beauty and wonder of forest environments contrasted against the threat from human actions.

The design is based on a thorough analysis of the site and the brief, exploring ways to intensify experience for both lemurs and visitors. The design uses vertical space with structures that allow the site to be experienced, and the lemurs to be viewed, from different levels – at the same time introducing exciting play possibilities. The lemurs have their own structure, which allows them to exercise, socialise and create territory above the ground. It is a densely packed and vibrant place that integrates the core elements of the brief:

  • Lemur welfare and conservation;
  • Kid’s play, focused on 9 -14 year olds;
  • Interpretation of place and animal conservation;
  • Retention and expression of the site context historically and physically.

The exhibit is divided into:

  • The forest play-through - a densely packed, multilayered forest with play areas interspersed at different levels.
  • The observation outpost functions as a central gathering place, allowing flexible use for keeper talks, function groups and family reconnection after the forest play-through experience.
  • A moat dividing the observation outpost from the lemur exhibit, accessed under a waterfall.
  • The lemur walkthrough that embraces the native xerophytic habitat of Madagascar. An island, exposed sandstone cliffs and ledges provide retreat for the lemurs as visitors walk through the exhibit. Night dens are located on the western side of the exhibit, accessed through a neatly concealed passageway under the heritage stairs.

Through a carefully worked sequence of structures, spaces and experiences, enlivened by landscape, interpretation and water, distinguished by materials and colour, the Lemur Forest Adventure has become one of Taronga Zoo’s most intimate and memorable visitor experiences.

Play was designed to cater for all ages but with a focus on the higher energy activities of 9-14 year olds. Essentially, play starts in the forest which includes two distinct paths offering different experiences which combine education and play. The smaller forest path leads to ecologically themed play elements – sculptural insects, which are an introduction to the more intense play area at the Observation Outpost. This path also leads to the forest walk structure with slide and viewing terrace. The lower level intense play area includes: climbing pod, balance challenges, water play and boulder climb.

The play experience is designed to be integrated with the site, encourage an appreciation of ecological issues and foster a relationship with the lemurs through parallel play.