South American Rain Forest Exhibit

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South American Rain Forest Exhibit
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South American Rain Forest Exhibit

Chaffee Zoological Gardens


2016, AIA San Joaquin Chapter, Design Award in the "Lived Well" Category

1989, AIA San Joaquin Chapter, Award of Merit for Excellence in Design and Execution

This project was completed in the fall of 1987 and marked a shift in exhibit design at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo toward interactive and immersive visitor experience. The goal with this project was to establish an aviary for a range of South American birds in the form of a walk-through habitat.

The Architecture needed to blend in with the natural setting of the rainforest. In effect the enclosure needed to disappear, in order that the visitors would feel immersed in a “naturally occurring” setting. The aviary walls are all flat planes of thick netting. Because this netting was designed never to overlap and is pulled taught over the structure, it appears unobtrusive to the casual observer.

The structure of the aviary is comprised of a series of long wooden poles. The tilt and angled connections of these poles presents an undulating and almost primitive shape. Design for the interior of the exhibit caters to the diverse collection of birds housed within the space. Curving pathways guide the visitor past a misty rock waterfall and along a bubbling stream. Past sand-bars and lush jungle palms, under protective brush and within overhead tree canopy; all parts of the exhibit play home to different species of birds. It is because of the unique micro-environments that such a wide range of birds can coexist harmoniously. The architects worked closely with Paul Chaffee, namesake of the Chaffee Zoo, to specify which species of bird would be in the exhibit.

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