31st March 2016

Melbourne Zoo’s Lion Gorge creates amazing experience for visitors

Would you trust an almost invisible sheet of glass to protect you from a full-grown lion running towards you at top speed? We would. And we’ve got one great reason – Melbourne Zoo’s Lion Gorge.

Visitors are only centimetres from danger and yet incredibly safe thanks to the strength and clarity of our glass – and the clever design techniques of OLA Architecture Studio.

Super tough, super clear and super engaging, Melbourne Zoo’s lion enclosure heightens the experience between human and animal.

To achieve the required experience, 19 weighty panels of our custom SuperClear were needed for a result that virtually disappears into its setting.

A winding path wraps around multiple display windows to provide framed views into the lion habitat. Visitors and lions seeking respite from the elements can easily find shelter and private space.

Phil Snowden, Principal at OLA Architecture Studio, explains how our glass helped create this magical experience.

“Part of what we try to achieve is a feeling of immersion into an experience and another part is to create the opportunity for people to make a real and emotional connection with wildlife and nature,” he said.

“At Lion Gorge, obviously, we’re not doing a walk through. The connection is largely through the unexpected proximity to the large predators, thanks in large part to the use of glass,” Phil added.

“You might not experience all of the scent, sound, or smell through the glass, but you get such a complete visual connection. The animals will come right up to visitors. People will feel like they can touch the animal. Enabling that all-important emotional connection,” he explained.

But it wasn’t easy. It’s all well and good to create a sensational bonding experience for visitors and lions, but at the end of the day lions are pretty dangerous animals. The enclosure had to balance creating an intimate connection with guaranteeing safety.

“The lions thought they had a free feed when they saw people behind the glass,” Phil said.

“Setting the glass as a barrier to the impact of a fully grown lion was probably the biggest challenge. We had a facade engineer calculate the impact of a lion running full steam into the glass. This resulted in Viridian manufacturing a custom makeup of various sheets of interlayers and glass,” he added.

Was it worth all the effort to deliver this awesome experience? Absolutely.

Learn more about how glass can open up incredible design possibilities by subscribing to our Vision magazine here: http://bit.ly/22GVqGa