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Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond Transformation and Education Pavilion

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2001 North Clark Street





Lincoln Park Zoo


  • Samantha Snodgrass, Studio Gang Architects
  • General Contractor: Pepper Construction Co.

Project Status


Year Completed

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Project Description

The project transforms a once-polluted and neglected urban pond into a native wildlife refuge, boardwalk, and education pavilion. Deepening the pond improves its oxygen content and reduces urban flooding by increasing its stormwater storage capacity. The pond’s planted edge provides bio-filtration of the site’s stormwater run-off. Visitors discover a series of educational zones along a boardwalk loop made from recycled plastic. The improved habitat attracts wildlife, allowing people to experience animals in what is essentially a zoo without cages. The education pavilion is an outdoor classroom and meeting place. Its column-free shell structure is made of bent wood elements and clad with fiberglass “pods.” Integrated into the boardwalk sequence, the pavilion is sited to frame the pond and skyline beyond. Double-curved, micro-laminated beams reveal the wood’s inherent pliability and structural integrity. Both prefabricated wood elements and fiberglass pods are light enough to be lifted by a single person, reducing construction time and cost. In addition to hosting educational activities, the structure creates engaging public space that has been adopted for a variety of community uses. Simultaneously urban and ecological, the project is a model for future public spaces in cities.
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