OTL to Build Natural Habitat for Detroit Zoo’s Penguin Exhibit

Posted in News -

OTL has been selected to construct natural habitats for the 33,000-square-foot Polk Family Penguin Conservation Center under construction at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, Mich. The $29.5 million expansion is the zoo’s largest project to date and will be the largest center in the U.S. dedicated solely to penguins.

The freestanding zoological exhibit, constructed on 2.1 acres, will hold approximately 80 penguins from four subarctic species: macaroni, rockhopper, king and gentoo.

“We are honored to work on this incredible project and with an organization truly committed to a natural-habitat philosophy,” says J. Wickham Zimmerman, OTL CEO.

“Natural zoo habitats reflect a deep understanding and respect for the species being exhibited,” adds Hugh F. Hughes, OTL president. “Our goal is to build a habitat for penguins that is as close to their subarctic environment as possible.”

OTL’s scope of work includes construction of artificial rockwork, ice and glaciers in the penguin habitat and “dry-side” theming in the visitor galleries. OTL’s creation of artificial mussels, barnacles and kelp will enhance the habitat’s realism.

According to zoo officials, teams did extensive research on natural penguin habitats and made multiple trips to Antarctica during the project’s two-year planning and design phase. The habitat, designed by Jones & Jones, the architects behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Detroit Zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life and numerous additional exhibits recognized for nature-driven design, is intended to encourage the penguins to behave as they would in the wild, including diving, nesting and mating.

The exhibit will include a 310,000-gallon aquatic area with a 25-foot ‘deep-dive,” which is said to mimic the penguins’ foraging range. As penguins swim under and around guests in a 360-degree tunnel, view windows will allow visitors to see the birds from multiple vantage points.

OTL is recognized throughout the industry for “geo-believability,” the practice of creating zoological habitats, rockwork, water features and other themed construction elements as geologically accurate as possible.

For more information about OTL’s expertise in zoo design and construction, visit otl.wpengine.com.