The program for the Fort Worth Zoo’s new herpetarium, named the Museum of Living Art or MOLA, required not only the space and infrastructure to accommodate the zoo’s complex program for animal display and conservation, but also required that the building break away from more traditional zoo architectural forms.
In working with the zoo’s staff to understand each animal’s needs and habitat, the team became inspired by the landscape and by biological forms. Curved roofs floating above the limestone walls recall the prairie’s rolling hills and limestone outcroppings. Galvalume roof panels curve like scales to follow the roof’s complex shapes. Changing light and shadow patterns on the interior stone walls are reminiscent of reptile scale patterns.
Interior animal exhibits are framed and displayed as living pieces of art. Low level accent lighting illuminates the interior volumes of the roofs and takes inspiration from the Texas sky at dawn and dusk. Moving through the exhibit areas, ceilings and light levels are lowered to create a sense of compression which is offset by the higher ceilings and increased light levels of the walk through exhibits where translucent, stylized leaf ceiling panels create a diffuse, dappled light.