L.Ercolani Lara Chairs ready for patrons at Te Puna cafe

Image Credit: Stevens Lawson Architects

Auckland Zoo has begun an ambitious 10-year plan to transform itself into a world-class immersive experience. The focus is to care for all life through a ‘closer to nature’ approach. The zoo is facilitating the environment, the passion and skills needed to conserve wildlife everywhere.

As part of the transformation, a new restaurant and function venue has been created, overlooking the central lake and new wetlands area. With great hospitality and beautiful interiors, this space delivers a very memorable dining and event experience.

Stevens Lawson Architects collaborated with Jack McKinney Architects to create a contemporary, light filled space with wide open vistas. The Zoo café, Te Puna (‘the spring’) has since been named one of the winners in the Public Architecture category of the 2021 Auckland Architecture Awards.

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Te Puna cafe’s fluid geometries are reminiscent of a coastline studded with sheltered niches.
New Zealand Institute of Architects
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Lara Chair
Made of solid ash wood and finished either in a clear lacquer to give a natural finish or in black lacquer that creates a more urban look—the Lara chair is extremely practical. A sculpted dish seat and solid back rail offer comfort with the design allowing the convenience of stacking. Useful for both the home and commercial situations.

Stevens Lawson Architects wanted a chair that would that complimented the sophisticated architecture and also meet the needs of a busy hospitality space.

The Lara chair, designed by Dylan Freeth for Ercol, features clean lines and a refined lightness that was perfect for the project.

Designed in 2016 with the hospitality industry in mind, the Lara Chair’s balanced and unassuming appearance makes it well-suited to both domestic and commercial dining spaces. Designed to stack easily after use, the Lara Chair is the consummate embodiment of Dylan Freeth’s technical abilities and values as a designer.

Boasting a steam-bent backrest and subtle, crafted details, the chair’s dished seat panel provides a comfortable and reliable base, allowing users to focus on the nourishment and sustenance of dining. The soft tactility of the Lara Chair’s surface makes it an inviting accompaniment to a wide array of gastronomic environments, including urban cafes, fine-dining restaurants and intimate bistros.

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The New Zealand Institute of Architects selected the Te Puna Café as the winner of the Best Public Architecture in Auckland category for 2021. They describedthe project as follows:

Te Puna cafe’s fluid geometries, reminiscent of a coastline studded with sheltered niches, provides various spaces to sit, eat and socialise. Two clay-brick pod forms rise above a sinuous veranda, perfectly expressing the relationship between concept, shape and structure.

Highlights include a skylight above the servery and white-washed glulam timber mullions. The architect's technical rigour and a focus on environmental performance have made this an oasis of calm at the heart of a zoo that is undergoing a 21st-century transformation.

Sinuous curves define the external form of the cafe

Image Credit: Stevens Lawson Architects

A freeform skylight bathes the servery area in natural light.

Image Credit: Stevens Lawson Architects

Te Puna is an oasis of calm at the heart of a zoo that is undergoing a 21st-century transformation.
New Zealand Institute of Architects

The cafe interior is a beautiful open plan space filled with natural light.

Image Credit: Stevens Lawson Architects

Architect Nicholas Stevens says being able to create a building to work within the unique landscape of the Zoo was a major highlight of the project.

“We wanted to create space that had lightness and transparency – that you could see right through and enter from all different sides. I love that the building doesn’t have a front or back, and that it bends and curves like little bays along a coastline, it feels calm and can be an oasis,” says Stevens.

“The clay-brick pod forms (the bathroom facilities and kitchen and servery areas) add the sculptural effect and anchor the building into the space in contrast to lightness and floating feel of the rest of it.”

Intimate sheltered outdoor spaces at Te Puna cafe

Image Credit: Stevens Lawson Architects

Being able to create a building to work within the unique landscape of the Zoo was a major highlight of the project.
Nicholas Stevens | Stevens Lawson Architects

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