The Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge

Akron Zoological Park

As project lead, working with zoological design consultant WDM Architects from Wichita, Kansas, Hasenstab Architects designed The Mike and Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge, the Akron Zoo’s most ambitious project to date.

Completed in July 2013, the 3.5-acre exhibit includes space for grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, otters, eagles, and native birds. The attractions are situated along a winding path that traverses a dramatic grade change, allowing multiple views of the animals from varied heights.

Highlights of the Grizzly Ridge exhibit include underwater viewing areas for grizzlies and otters, an aviary with a rope bridge and treehouse, a mid-1850’s themed bear building with a covered porch, and a tube slide through the otter water feature. Interactive thematic elements reinforce the Zoo’s message of conservation and the connection of the featured animals to historic Ohio.

The project features a green roof, bio-retention basin, and many other sustainable features that further the Zoo’s mission of conservation of not only wildlife, but of all natural resources.

During early site evaluations, it was revealed that the entire three-acre site sits on bedrock relatively close to the surface. A ground-penetrating-radar (GPR) survey was done of the entire site, resulting in a contour map of the rock, upon which the design team overlaid the “regular” survey. This approach allowed the contractor to accurately interpolate the depth of rock from grade at any point on the site.   Inclusion of this information in the documents allowed accurate bidding and resulted in fewer costly changes later in the construction process.

Additional challenges stemmed from the types of occupants this exhibit features. Careful consideration had to be paid to the durability of the materials that were used. For instance, cast in place concrete was used instead of masonry in order to withstand the destructive and often curious nature of some of the animals, especially the grizzly bears. The design of the exhibit was also carefully planned to uphold the highest level of safety, while still providing an environment that mimics the animals’ natural habitats.

The Grizzly Ridge exhibit is LEED® Silver Certified.


2014 Cleveland Engineering Society Award of Excellence - New Construction

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