Polk Penguin Conservation Center
Detroit Zoo Michigan
At 33,000 square feet, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center is the largest penguin facility in the world featuring more than 80 penguins of four different species.
The award-winning exhibit looks like a large iceberg and is set at an angle to make it feel more natural for the flightless birds. Among the most spectacular features of the 33,000-square-foot facility is a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area where visitors can watch as more than 80 penguins of four species (Rockhopper, Macaroni, King and Gentoo) explore their habitat.
- Artificial Rockwork
- Snow Theming
- Artificial Ice Wall
Inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic expedition and epic crossing of the Drake Passage, the penguin center evokes the harsh and visceral ice world of the southern continent.
The theme of the project was to recreate a portion of Antarctica that transitioned from above water to underwater as well as from ice to snow to exposed rock.
Designed by Jones & Jones and by Albert Kahn Associates, OTL’s goal was to build the habitat as close to the penguin’s Antarctic and subarctic environment as possible. Working closely with world-renowned polar ecologist and penguin expert Dr. Bill Fraser, director of the Polar Oceans Research Group, OTL’s scope of work included 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 each help enhance the habitat’s realism.
““These institutions meet the highest standards in animal care and provide a fun, safe and educational family experience. In addition, they dedicate millions of dollars to support scientific research, conservation and education programs.”” AZA // American Zoo Association
The penguin center opened its doors to the public in April 2016 and quickly led the Zoo to a record-breaking attendance that year.
- Winner of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) 2017 Exhibit Award, a top honor bestowed annually upon accredited institutions for excellence in exhibit design.
- Awarded ‘Best Project’ in the Sports/Entertainment category of Engineering News-Record (ENR) Midwest’s Regional Best Projects
- 2016’s ‘Best of the Best’ from across the U.S.
- Project of the Year by the Construction Association of Michigan (CAM)