RATIO Architects

Indianapolis Zoo Bicentennial Pavilion & Promenade

Indianapolis, IN, USA - 2017
30. October 2017
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
The Indianapolis Zoo first opened to the public in 1964 in the city's George Washington Park. In 1988 the Zoo moved to a larger site in White River State Park, its home ever since. Earlier this year the Zoo completed its Bicentennial Pavilion, an outdoor structure intended to host various Zoo activities, private events, concessions, and a bird presentation area. Designed by RATIO Architects, who answered a few questions about the project, the pavilion and promenade make a strong architectural statement at the entrance to the Zoo.
Project: Indianapolis Zoo Bicentennial Pavilion & Promenade, 2017
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Client: Indianapolis Zoological Society
Architect: RATIO Architects, Indianapolis
Design Principal: Bill Browne, FAIA LEED AP
Project Manager: Tom Gallagher, ASLA PLA
Project Team: Tyler Welsh; Andrew Heilman; Ken Boyce, ASLA LEED AP; John Hartlep, RA; Casey May; Jeff Pitts, LEED AP BD+C; Cody Bornsheuer, AIA LEED AP BD+C
Structural Engineer: Fink Roberts & Petrie
MEP/FP Engineer: KJWW/IMEG
Landscape Architect: RATIO
Construction Manager: Turner Construction Company
Irrigation Consultants: Landtech Design
Civil Engineer: CEC
A/V Consultant: PRO Sound
Building Area: 40,000 sf
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
In 2015, the Lilly Endowment approached the Indianapolis Zoo with a transformative opportunity: the Endowment would provide a $10 million grant to the Zoo, on the condition that it be used to implement a game-changing initiative that benefits the community institution’s long-term sustainability. With these broad parameters in mind, the Zoo identified a project that would align with its strategic master plan objective to attract, engage, and accommodate visitors during the shoulder seasons and on days with inclement or marginal weather.
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
Please provide an overview of the project.
The solution was to create an open-air special events facility that is protected from the weather and able to support a wide variety of sometimes-simultaneous group activities, including concerts, picnics, and private events, while also expanding on existing shoulder season events such as Christmas at the Zoo in December and ZooBoo in October. (Previously, this purpose was fulfilled by a semi-permanent 400-person tent located next to back-of-house areas near the Zoo’s main entrance.) Importantly, this new facility would have to be compelling enough to be an attraction of its own, but "quiet" enough to be transformed for events and programming.
 
The resulting Bicentennial Pavilion and Promenade is modeled after a lush rain forest and crafted primarily from natural materials. The Pavilion’s eleven steel tree-like "pods" provide 40,000 square feet of weather-protected space and a unique, high-drama environment for up to 1,000 seated event attendees. The forest-like environment also provides a unique location for the Zoo’s newest bird exhibition, Magnificent Macaws, with a custom-designed stage and perch that showcases the birds on their twice-daily flight through the Pavilion.
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
The project takes advantage of the slightly rolling landscape, a rarity for a site in Indiana, and settles into this more wooded section of the Zoo’s grounds. Sited near the Zoo’s main entrance, the "trees" are located in a way that frames the entry plaza and draws visitors through the project along the campus's main path.
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?
Environmental sustainability is obviously a chief concern of the Zoo and part of its mission as an organization. In this project, that intention largely manifested itself in how the site treats rainwater, which is 100% collected on-site and percolates into the aquifer as opposed to being discharged to city sewers.
 
When water contacts the Pavilion’s canopy, it is funneled into the pods, down their rain screens of custom-designed, laser-cut weathered steel, to a sunken, plant-filled bed below, through a water quality unit, and finally to a 14-foot deep water detention bed of free draining stones, designed to accommodate 100-year flood events. Within each bed are plants selected to thrive in saturated environments and water intake pipes that are intentionally raised above grade to encourage natural percolation through the soil.
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?
Each pod consists of 63 individual glulam Southern Pine wood beams by Glue-Lam Erectors, ranging from 83 feet long and 19,000 pounds to just three feet and 25 pounds. Translucent roofing materials (U-Lite Monolithic polycarbonate standing seam panels by CPI Daylighting) allow sunlight to filter through to the ground below, and the entire "forest" of pods is held together with 6,424 bolts and lag screws. Beneath the 35-foot canopy, a hearth of rough-back quarry block Indiana Oolitic limestone serves as a visual centerpiece and will provide warmth during colder weather.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
Photo: Susan Fleck, © RATIO Architects, Inc.
Location Plan (Drawing: RATIO)
Roof Plan (Drawing: RATIO)
Plan beneath Roof (Drawing: RATIO)
Structural Framing (Image: RATIO)
An early sketch with the location of the Pavilion in the top-left corner (Drawing: RATIO)
An early sketch showing a design with curved glulam beams (Drawing: RATIO)

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