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General information

  • Home page
  • Location address
  • Location country
    United States
  • Year of construction
  • Function of building
    Entertainment & recreation
  • Primary function of the tensile structure
    • Daylight gains
    • Rain protection


The pavilions, though different in size, used a modular structural system developed by Weidlinger engineers Minhaj Kirmani and Steve Varga that was based on the geometry of circles and segments of circles. Each circular tent module was spanned by three segmented steel bands, curved to meet at their apex, 65 feet above the ground. Steel cables, stressed between the bands and the circular concrete base, supported a Teflon-coated membrane roof. The base of each tent is a 30 foot wide underground ring containing animal holding and service facilities. The roof of this circular area acted as a compression ring, and was designed as a partly open concrete truss, allowing for ventilation and natural light in these spaces.

This was designed as an all-weather zoo, where animals appear to live freely in their natural habitat in winter as well as in summer. Enhancing this naturalistic exhibit approach, the pavilions were conceived as “non-buildings,” minimalist background structures that provided weather protection, while allowing maximum transmission of natural light for the growth of the large variety of plant material located within the enclosed exhibition areas. Jerry Johnson conceived the foot path twists and turns to achieve maximum exhibition length, presenting the visitor with naturalistic features to confine views so that one cannot see other visitors in the distance. The exhibits were arranged to allow predators and prey to be seen together but safely separated by invisible barriers such as moats or glass panels. Zoo visitors are separated from animals by similar means, while birds fly freely throughout the pavilion.

Description of the environmental conditions

Material of the cover

  • Cable-net/Fabric/Hybrid/Foil

Main dimensions and form

  • Covered surface (m2)

Duration of use

  • Temporary or permanent structure
  • Convertible or mobile
  • Design lifespan in years

Involved companies