play centre, ZSL whipsnade zoo


This new build Adventure Play Centre is an extension to the existing Children's Farm area in the heart of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.  The 470sqm extension has provided a unique and dynamic play environment, full of natural light, and designed to integrate the existing farm area with the adjacent external play areas.  


The design is intended to be read as an extension/adaption of the existing farm building, conveyed predominantly by using scale and the material palette.  The language of the barn is transferred to the new extension, and then adapted and developed to ensure the new building is a respectful yet identifiable addition.  A double heighted barn was designed adjacent to the existing, which was then wrapped with a single storey lean-to section continuing the existing canopy language of the farm.  This culminates in a new flat roofed entrance area, which is positioned as a visual focal point on the side of the Children’s Farm.


The proposal uses cladding materials which are sympathetic to the existing aesthetic: black timber stained boarding and metal cladding panels.  There are also large areas of glazing, ensuring the building has plenty of light and connects visually with the outdoor external play areas.  To contrast with the existing architecture, and to ensure the extension is seen as an addition, the rear of the building is clad in an off-white render, contrasting nicely with the black cladding.


Internally, the play areas have been designed around different habitats: there's the jungle, arctic and swinging primates, where children can imitate the animals depicted around the equipment. Within the maize of the play equipment perspex cantilevered domes stick out the side of the building giving windows into the farm areas beyond.

The building was opened in October 2012 by the pop singer Michelle Heaton.

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