August 4, 2021

Gravity-Defying Canopy by Ross Barney Architects Welcomes Visitors to Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago

A gravity-defying canopy by Ross Barney Architects welcomes visitors to Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

At Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, a new pavilion by Ross Barney Architects is topped by a dramatic, sunlight-refracting canopy, which, in the schematic phase, was imagined with balsa dowels layered over a conceptual study model. Photography courtesy of Ross Barney Architects.
During design development, its structural diagram was rendered with SketchUp, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Image courtesy of Ross Barney Architects.
The same software was used for the panel studies to determine potential patterns for the modules, ranging from 15 to 30 feet tall, composing the canopy. Image courtesy of Ross Barney Architects.
On-site, a crane installed the modules, which were prefabricated of laser-cut steel and painted olive green. Photography courtesy of Ross Barney Architects.
The modules also form the zoo’s entry gate, their long, slanted voids intentional, to discourage visitors from climbing them. Photography courtesy of Ross Barney Architects.
Outside what becomes the pavilion’s information desk, the canopy casts leaflike shadows on the aggregate base, which is eventually covered by permeable brick pavers. Photography courtesy of Ross Barney Architects.
The 9,500-square-foot pavilion, officially the Searle Visitor Center, includes administrative offices, a lounge, and public restrooms, as well as a bouldered courtyard by fellow local firm Jacobs/Ryan Associates, helping to update the 150-year-old Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the last in the country with free admission. Photography by Kendall McCaugherty/Hall+Merrick Photographers.

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