Snow Leopard Enclosure - Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington Zoo’s new snow leopard enclosure uses Abodo Vulcan Shingles to create a Himalayan inspired aesthetic.

Project details

Architecture Workshop
Structural engineer
Dunning Thornton Consultants
Naylor Love
Vulcan Shingles
Photography credit
Grant Davis
Completion date
April 2023
Wellington, New Zealand

This specialised, multi-dimensional enclosure and viewing area for Wellington Zoo’s snow leopards uses Abodo’s newest product, Vulcan Shingles, to create a Himalayan inspired aesthetic with naturally varied texture.

Designed by Architecture Workshop, the enclosure plays a dual role, delivering both a visitor education and viewing space and a place where the cats can get away from the public eye and receive care from keepers.

In its brief, the Zoo requested the viewing area have a sense of camouflage, which would allow the cats to relax despite being on display, and that any timbers be Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified. This led the architects to specify Abodo Vulcan Shingles for external treatment of the sloped viewing shelters, where visitors can peer through large windows into a den-like section of the enclosure.

Wellington Zoo Snow Leopard Enclosure Vulcan Shingles Abodo Wood 03

The timber shingles provide a varied grain depth and a texture that is reminiscent of mountain huts and alpine terrain. The design features three overlapping layers of shingles, with black stained horizontal purlins matching the shingle module internally. To provide a natural aesthetic that is in keeping with the rocky topography of the habitat, the shingles are left without stain or oil treatment, which means they will retain their warm timber glow inside the viewing areas, while outside will eventually take on a beautiful, weathered look.

As part of the production process, Vulcan Shingles are strengthened with an OPX water-based preservation system to bolster durability so they can remain uncoated, while Vulcan’s thermal modification process reduces the resin content of the timber in the shingle. As a result of being crafted in the same fashion as Vulcan weatherboards Vulcan Shingles retain a vertical grain orientation, which increases its longevity and stability through all weathers without the risk of cupping or warping.

As well as viewing the cats, the visitor area is dedicated to education about their threatened status, which is in large part due to climate change. For this reason - and more - the specification of Abodo Vulcan made perfect sense.

Where possible the product is made from offcuts of Vulcan weatherboards, in an effort to minimise waste in line with Abodo’s circular economy principles. Being able to make use of a waste product also aligns well with the Zoo’s sustainability ethos.

In terms of installation, traditionally shingles would have been attached to some form of sheathing, such as plywood or counter battens. However, this creates the potential for moisture to become trapped as it reduces airflow behind the shingles. To counter this, Abodo Vulcan Shingles are detailed with a ventilation cavity system, which extends the durability of the timber.

Enjoying a renaissance in high-end architecture, resorts, tiny cabins, and homes today architects and building designers are expertly using the warm charm of timber shingles as a contrast to contemporary materials and façade design. For inspirational examples of human-centred building projects using timber shingles on walls and roofs, take a look at Abodo’s curated Pinterest Board.


See more about the products that have been used on this project.

Vulcan Shingles Vulcan Cladding Abodo Wood
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