Regenstein African Journey

Since the completion of the 60,000 sf Regenstein Large Mammal House in 1982, animal conservation and display philosophies have changed dramatically, requiring considerable renovation and reconfiguration to house and care for a wide variety of animal species. IDEA was commissioned by the zoo as the architect for the renovation, with The Portico Group of Seattle as exhibit design specialists. A new red brick entry pavilion was designed using material and form as reference to the historic Lion House nearby. The interior was completely transformed from a ‘bare bones’ animal enclosure to a richly-themed sequence of naturalistic exhibits and the cast concrete building structure was gutted to allow for the installation of massive skylights to flood the interior with natural light. Exterior exhibits feature custom rockwork and extensive landscape plantings to provide a rich backdrop for the zoo’s first multi-species environment.


The unusual and visually dominant original structural geometry posed significant challenges in the design process. The resulting “meandering” path through the building masks the original rigid geometry. The formerly brutal concrete-and-block interior was obscured behind new naturalistic exhibit features and lush interior plantings.