U.S. Building of the Week

Lincoln Park Zoo, Searle Visitor Center

Ross Barney Architects
15. julho 2019
Photo © Hall+Merrick Photographers, Kendall McCaugherty

The always free Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago opened its new Searle Visitor Center in November as the latest piece in its Pride of Chicago capital campaign. Topped by angled planes of metal, the building makes for a striking gateway to the zoo from the east. Ross Barney Architects sent us some text and images on the building.

Project: Searle Visitor Center, 2018
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Client: Lincoln Park Zoo
Architect: Ross Barney Architects
Landscape Architect: Jacobs/ Ryan Associates
Structural Engineer: Goodfriend Magruder Structure
MEP Engineer: IMEG Engineering
Civil Engineer: Terra Engineering
Cost Estimating: The Concord Group
Contractor: Bulley and Andrews
Photo © Hall+Merrick Photographers, Kendall McCaugherty

The Lincoln Park Zoo, one of North America’s oldest, has evolved since its 1868 founding into an institution that connects people with nature in the urban heart of Chicago. Through its focus on quality and conservation, the Zoo embarked on a capital campaign to re-work its visitor experience including a dynamic east gate pavilion as the new Searle Visitor Center.

Photo © Hall+Merrick Photographers, Kendall McCaugherty

The new pavilion, which comprise an entry gate, visitor center, administrative offices, membership lounge, and public washrooms tucks behind the natural landscape. Two buildings formed in the shape of a “J” are visually tied together by an innovative structural canopy with cantilevered frames supporting and hanging from one another. These opposing forces: tension and compression, balance in an effect that appears to effortlessly levitate. As visitors arrive, a pattern of layered branches filters light as if peering through the branches of a tree.

Photo © Hall+Merrick Photographers, Kendall McCaugherty

A courtyard, scattered with boulders and a blooming tree, is wrapped by offices. The information center, with its retracting walls, opens to the Zoo grounds in the summer months, enriching the visitor experience and creating an open and welcoming experience. As the Zoo closes, a monumental gate with the same layered branch pattern closes. Pivotal to the design and security of the building and more broadly the entire zoo campus, the pattern had to be calibrated to discourage climbing.

Photo © Hall+Merrick Photographers, Kendall McCaugherty

The Searle Visitor Center represents the aspirations of a Chicago Institution that has become one of the last free Zoo’s in the country with a memorable building that is a gateway to the park, city, and world beyond.

Photo © Hall+Merrick Photographers, Kendall McCaugherty
Photo © Hall+Merrick Photographers, Kendall McCaugherty
Site Plan (Drawing: Ross Barney Architects)
Elevations (Drawing: Ross Barney Architects)
 Image: Ross Barney Architects

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