Amazon Charitable Trust Science Centre

Location: Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

Client: Amazon Charitable Trust

Sector: Education, R&D

A pioneering science centre in the heart of the Amazon, with more than six miles of walkways and an observation tower above the rainforest canopy, is being planned by the Amazon Charitable Trust, a British charity, in partnership with the Xixuaú Co-operative, approximately 400 kilometres north of Manaus. The $10m (£6.4m) project in Roraima, a northern state of Brazil, is being designed by Marks Barfield Architects who created the London Eye and designed the treetop walkway in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

The centre, in the village of Xixuaú, will bring together scientists from the Brazilian Amazon Research Institute and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, universities and other organisations. The site is intended to satisfy the needs of scientists, researchers and students alike, focusing on climate change, forests and bio-diversity, enabling them to conduct research in the natural environment of their chosen field with the necessary resources to hand. By attracting corporate involvement whereby staff and their families, sent for three weeks at a time, will stay alongside the scientists and locals and participate in the daily research related activities and those of the communities, this site will provide a valuable and sustainable income for the Xixuaú community and its neighbours.

New buildings for the Science Centre will provide basic laboratories for scientists and environmentalists, seminar and meeting rooms, as well as communal dining areas. The buildings as well as the observation tower will employ natural low-impact construction and are envisioned to be constructed mainly from bamboo.

The walkway, high above the jungle floor, will be used by researchers to study the canopy, and by visitors to experience spectacular views. It will be built partly on the ground and partly elevated, in order to access to the canopy at a variety of heights. In places the walkway will be supported on pylons and in others it will be suspended from trees. Materials will be steel cable, rope, bamboo (Guadua), local wood, woven palm mat lathing, and small amounts of recycled rubber and concrete.

Humid climate and flooding are the principal environmental challenges, as well as beetle infestation and wild animals. The site is extremely remote and environmentally sensitive. Great care will be taken in the selection and transport of suitable materials for construction.

Sustainable and environmental features:

  • BIM Innovation
  • Building Energy Management Systems
  • Encourage Recycling
  • Forestry Stewardship Council Approved Timber
  • Green Specification Guidance
  • Grey Water Recycling
  • Indigenous Planting Scheme
  • Manual Control
  • Maximise locally sourced materials to minimise transport
  • Micro-climate
  • Natural Ventilation
  • Non V.O.C. Paint
  • Off-site construction
  • Photovoltaics
  • Reduce Construction Wastage
  • Reduce Time on Site
  • Secure Night Time Ventilation
  • Solar Hot Water Panels
  • Thermal Mass
  • Water Saving Fixtures
  • Shading / Overhangs