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Cascade of visitors to Expo Rainforest House

The Rainforest House designed by Ray Hole (see profile, page 26-27), for this year's Expo in Hanover, has proved a popular success after achieving higher than expected attendances since it opened on March 31. An average peak figure of 2,800 people per day have been passing through the doors of the 7,250m 2attraction, which was sponsored principally by Volkswagen and cost 27.2m DM (£8.5 million) - or 375 DM (£117)/m 2.The building has a tri-ovoid plan and features extensive use of ETFE rather than glass - chosen after observation of similar roofs at the Bergen Zoo, Arnhem.The panels are 3.6m wide with air cushions of differing lengths spanning between tubular ribs, which house a maintenance hoist system. Botanists can use the hoist to ride up and drop into the tree canopy to conduct their research, rather than the conventional 'cherry picker' method which obstructs the pathways for visitors. The system was inspired, say the designers, by the film Medicine Man starring Sean Connery. A spiral ramp inside nicknamed the 'Botanic Guggenheim' allows visitors to rise up and peer out over the canopy from a glass lookout platform. Misting jets provide humidity and cooling when required.

Design was by Hole with Gordon Wilson and support architect Bertrum Bunemann Partner. Structural engineer was Adams Kara Taylor.

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