Reimagining Spaces for Animals: A Conversation with Jon Coe, Legendary Zoo Designer

Jon Coe has been at the cutting edge of zoo design since helping to establish immersion habitats in the 1970s. Throughout the years he’s been the one to break the mold with revolutionary ideas for animal habitats: a space where gorillas live in a lush replication of the African rainforest, an African savanna where you can’t see other people looking out at the animals, animals such as tigers and orangutans rotating in a series of habitats and even trails that let animals explore the entire zoo grounds. Coe has not only defined the art of habitat design but pushed zoos worldwide to continue to be innovative and create dynamic, enriching spaces for their animals. Here is his story.

@ Jon Coe

It all began when Coe visited the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston during his time at Harvard Graduate School of Design in the 1960s. “I went into the old elephant house and the three elephants were chained and fighting- really angry,” he recalled. “Meanwhile the keeper was leaning against a wall in the corner with his arms crossed. I asked the keeper why the elephants were fighting and he said because they are chained. I then asked him why they were chained and he said because they fight. That inspired me to do my thesis on artificial habitats for captive animals and I became really interested in animal behavior. I went to my faculty advisor with my ideas and he told me no one can make a living designing zoos and no one here could advise me.” Determined not to give up, Coe went to the guidance of Irvin Devore, a professor in the anthropology department who had written about the social behavior of baboons as a model of human behavior. “He was very supportive all the way through,” he said.

@ Jon Coe

After six years of doing things like serving in the Peace Corps in Brazil and planning national parks and college campuses in Alberta, Canada, Coe joined forces with his former Harvard classmate Grant Jones, who had founded the firm Jones and Jones in Seattle. Two weeks after Coe came, they got the call to turn a private sanctuary into a public facility called Northwest Trek in Eatonville, WA. The park would focus on the wildlife of the Pacific Northwest and include a tram tour that would show people around a massive free range area. “It’s like a managed wildlife setting,” Coe commented. “The property was owned by a doctor and his wife who had this huge private collection but they wanted to donate it to the City of Tacoma to maintain it after they were gone. They hired us to design it.”

@ Northwest Trek

Jones and Jones’ work on the drive-through part of Northwest Trek was less about creating natural habitats as showing off the beauty of what was already there. “We spent so much time studying the landscape and walking/driving around,” Coe explained. “We found out how and where the animals spent their time during every season and made the road so it took visitors to all the different biomes and the most scenic areas while also respecting the vegetation and topography. It was a very thorough ecological study. Our goal was to take what was there and present it in the best possible way.” Since 1975, visitors have been able to go on a 1.5 hour tram ride and see bison, moose, mountain goats, elk, deer and bighorn sheep roaming over 400 acres of natural wilderness. “All it had to do with animal management was understanding how animals manage themselves,” Coe commented.

@ Northwest Trek

@ Northwest Trek

Coe’s first zoo project for a city zoo was the groundbreaking master plan for the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. This long range plan has been credited as a signal point in zoos beginning to be organized in bioclimatic zones and attempting to replicate the naturalistic environments of the animals. “The three main coauthors of long range plan were Grant Jones, Dennis Paulson and myself in close collaboration with David Hancocks, the zoo’s planning coordinator and then director,” Coe said. “I was the one who did the drawing and put physical form to everyone’s philosophical ideas. I also physically wrote about eighty percent of the document. The zoo today is almost identical to the master plan we carried out.”

@ Jones and Jones

The first major habitat from the master plan brought to life was one for gorillas. “During my research at Harvard, I had read a book on mountain gorillas by George Schaller and felt I had a good understanding of the way they used their habitat,” Coe elaborated. “We modeled the habitat at Woodland Park around the way gorillas live in a rainforest and use clearings. We designed it to be a highlands landscape with gorillas. We tied it together with a real understanding of ecology. We used nature as our model.” At the time many professionals in the zoo industry thought the idea of giving gorillas natural vegetation was absurd since the apes would destroy it and it would make it harder for the visitors to see them. However, the team at Jones and Jones was “completely committed to replicating their natural habitat.”

@ Scott Richardson

A big turning point came in the project when George Schaller, the only zoologist who had lived with gorillas and published about them at that point, came to visit the zoo. “I had wanted to have this maple tree inside the gorilla habitat,” Coe said. “When Dr. Schaller came, I showed him what we were doing and said, 'I want the gorillas to be able to climb this tree.' All the zoos said we’re crazy but Schaller said ‘Someone has to do it, you have to do it.’ He was my hero so I had to follow through. At that time practically every zoo had gorillas on concrete so you can see how revolutionary what we were doing was. A year after the habitat opened David Hancocks took a picture of a male gorilla 40 feet up in that tree looking out at his troop and the zoo. That photograph went around the zoo world and was quite influential.”

@ Woodland Park Zoo

To build the habitat, the zoo greatly expanded a former bear grotto and turned it into a West African rainforest with lush vegetation, clearings and trees. “We built an outdoor day shelter so they wouldn’t need to spend much time indoors during bad weather,” Coe elaborated. “We built clearings to provide them room to be in the sun so the gorillas would be active and seen. The back moat was hidden so you couldn’t see it and the tree canopy looks continuous.” Part of how the habitat became so naturalistic is it did not house gorillas until a year after it was built so the vegetation had time to mature and become well established. Coe remarked, “The gorilla habitat is practically identical today to what it was back then. Portico built a second gorilla habitat in the old bear grotto which had not been developed but that was it.”

@ Scott Richardson

Next Jones and Jones built another spectacular habitat at the Woodland Park Zoo: the African Savanna. “We put the African Plains there because it was just a great lawn,” Coe said. “The most important idea there was sightline design- you don’t have large groups occupying continuous overlooks but have different vantage points and vistas. What we did was designed a circulation of the area and elevated the center so it was flat but just above eye level. You don’t see people looking back at you. One time a woman said she had seen 15 giraffes when there were only three out there. She had just seen them from different places. We buried the zebra barn under the overlook- one of the first buried nighthouses.”

@ Woodland Park Zoo

A unique feature of the savanna at Woodland Park is that lions, hippos and patas monkeys appear to be sharing the same space as the giraffes and zebras although invisible moats separate them. “We had read and observed that hippos can be very territorial,” Coe pointed out. “In the old hippo pool it was very small with the only deep part in the middle and the keeper told us there was only room for one. We reversed it in the new habitat by having the deep water at the edges and the shallow water in the corner, giving space for the hippos to do their own thing. We had the big savanna serve as the backdrop so you always look through and see the hoofstock.”

@ Scott Richardson

For the lions they extended an old lion grotto and turned it into a slice of the African savanna with their prey behind. “We tore out the moat wall and expanded it across the area,” Coe explained. “We put the viewing blind through this area. If you look to the left, the water moat beings. It was a clever way to join these two barriers. Guests can have a nose to nose view with the lions and a more naturalistic immersion view.” The careful design and breathtaking naturalism African Savanna earned Woodland Park the award for AZA Best Exhibit of the Year.

@ Scott Richardson

Jones and Jones’ next project would also win an award by the AZA: this time for the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma with its Arctic Tundra. The stars of the habitat were polar bears and here they were given naturalistic surroundings for the first time at any zoo. It also was the first time guests could see the Arctic bears swim through underwater viewing. “The polar bear habitat was groundbreaking in its day because it had natural substrate,” Coe commented. “I contributed the sightline design idea of the moat, which is only seen at the top. The top of the moat looks just like a permafrost edge. You see the bear in front of it with the beautiful backdrop, the first polar bear habitat with a natural backdrop.”

@ Scott Richardson

While it was brilliant at the time, Coe acknowledged the polar bear habitat has not necessarily remained state-of-the-art as it has aged. “There are some fundamental problems,” he said. “It needed to be a whole lot bigger and more enriching. The only enrichment was the pool itself. We weren’t as much looking at enrichment in those days. We saw big natural space alone as enrichment.” The Point Defiance Zoo has plans for an expansion of its polar bear habitat to bring it up to modern standards. Next Coe designed Cascade Stream for the Oregon Zoo in Portland featuring beavers and river otters. This project was significant because it was his first collaboration with his future longtime collaborator Gary Lee. “Gary Lee was hired by Jones and Jones and later became my partner at CLR,” he said. “He’s a brilliant designer.”

@ Point Defiance Zoo

Coe’s next task was to work east and help transform the Pittsburgh Zoo. “Pittsburgh was very difficult since it was back then just about the oldest worst zoo I’d seen in my life,” he recalled. “Where the savanna area is now was just a giant zoo building with two long wings of caged animals. When they started they had four of everything while now they just had one. The director at the time was very old school and didn’t want us. We were brought in by the parks department to raise the level of quality there. With great patience and humility, I was able to win the director over until he became very happy with the work I did.”

@ Jon Coe

The two projects Coe designed for Pittsburgh were the Asian Forest and the African Savanna. “The Asian exhibit with the tigers was on a very, very steep site so we just had to have a cliff like habitat,” he elaborated. “The Savanna’s sightlines, viewing areas and elevated grass are a replication of Woodland Park. The hoofstock barn is hidden by a toilet block. It was the first time we used an underwater barrier to separate elephants from the main savanna and make them look like they’re together.” Coe’s work was instrumental in turning the Pittsburgh Zoo around and greatly increasing its reputation.

@ Scott Richardson

Around this time Jon Coe began to become a voice in talking about zoos. “I had been giving these conference papers and boy that’s a whole other story,” he said. “The AZA in those days was an old boy’s club and the established powers were very anti-commercial. If you were commercial you were a third class citizen. I didn’t realize before I gave my first paper in 1983 commercial members were not allowed to give papers at AZA conferences. I was the second commercial person to give a talk. I was able to go up there every year and give papers that many people found very useful.”

@ Toledo Zoo

Coe’s conference papers helped him gain a number of important clients including Bill Dennler, director of the Toledo Zoo. “I stopped by Toledo and shared a lot of ideas with him,” he recalled. “At the time Jones and Jones had mixed feelings about us working with them since they weren’t that keen to do these smaller urban zoos in the East but I talked them into it.” They designed habitats for white rhinos and river hippos, the latter being the first modern hippo habitat complete with underwater viewing. “I had been visiting East Africa on safari and seen the Mzima Springs in Tsavo, which has an underwater viewing panel into this natural spring,” Coe explained. “So they built the first Hippoquarium as we designed it. When it opened it was disaster- the water was terrible. They found out they had plumbed in one of the pieces backwards and after they fixed it the whole thing worked.” The Toledo Zoo’s Hippoquarium holds up great thirty years after it opened in 1987 and inspired many other zoos to let visitors see hippos lumber in crystal clear water.

@ Toledo Zoo

Soon, however, Jon Coe would have a major career change. “I was quite happy at Jones and Jones taking the ferryboat to work and being in Seattle,” he said. “Lovely city, lovely people. However, I had always to do some teaching and was asked to join the faculty at U Penn for three years. I took a four year absence from Jones to Jones to teach there. However, within two weeks of moving to Philadelphia to teach landscape architecture, I was getting calls from East Coast zoos.” Soon Gary Lee moved out to Philadelphia to help Coe with projects and they worked in his garage. After a year, they started a firm called Coe Lee. Years later when John Rogers joined them they changed the name to CLR, which is still one of the most dominant zoo design firms today.

@ Toledo Zoo

Among CLR’s first projects were reimagining the Staten Island Zoo, a predator ecology complex at the Philadelphia Zoo (Carnivore Kingdom), a spacious naturalistic habitat for chimpanzees at the Detroit Zoo (Great Apes of Harambe) and helping the Bronx Zoo’s design team in a supportive fashion ( Baboon Reserve.) Soon afterwards Coe worked with legendary Bronx Zoo director William Conway on the Asian elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tapir facilities for the iconic Zoo Center. However, of these early projects the one that put CLR on the map was for Zoo Atlanta, which was a zoo determined to transform after being named one of the worst zoos in America by the Humane Society. No one was more committed to making Zoo Atlanta world-class than its director Terry Maple. “We were at a conference at the Lincoln Park Zoo and talked for about two hours about great ape facilities,” Coe recalled. “We really hit it off sharing ideas. Then at another point he invited me to come down and talk to his students at Georgia Tech. there was something like a two hour period where I had to entertain myself so I just sketched out what an ideal gorilla, orangutan and chimpanzees habitat would like. When he came back I showed him and it blew him away.” This was the beginning of the development of the Ford African Rainforest, which would allow the zoo’s iconic silverback Willie B be outside and be with other gorillas for the first time.

@ Jon Coe

“The big idea with Atlanta’s gorilla facilities was rotation,” Coe explained. “In other words I had this idea you could interconnect a really nice gorilla habitat with three or four more habitats. You would let the animals enter timeshare in the different spaces. They would occupy the area the previous group left so in for days they would have much more space. We made each of the habitats a different experience which was very enriching. Terry Maple talked about good stress and bad stress. To explain good stress, he would use the term optimal arousal, which is when you challenge animals through slight apprehension. This helps the animals learn and get excited- same reason people go on roller coasters.” The entire area for the gorillas was carefully designed to allow them to carry out natural behaviors and live in a rich social context (Atlanta has the largest population of gorillas in North America.)

@ Scott Richardson

When the gorilla complex opened at Zoo Atlanta in 1988, it received great critical acclaim and broke new ground in terms of gorilla management. Many babies have been born in the facility and it is still an excellent gorilla complex today. However, one part of Coe’s vision did not necessarily come to life. “Terry Maple strongly supported the idea of doing a rotation of the gorillas,” he explained. “He was very adventuresome and risk taking in his philosophy. However, the general curator and gorilla staff resisted rotation. They made excuses not to do it year after year. Then, Kristen Lukas was one of Terry’s students and did her senior thesis on rotation. With his permission she came to the zoo and got the two troops to exchange areas for two weeks. Then she alternated these two for two weeks until they rotated on a daily basis. Kristen found they were far more active than they were before. However after she finished it the zoo went back to what it had done before and the animals went back to their previous behaviors. We tried a similar thing in Toledo where we were going to have gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans move but the woman in charge of orangs didn’t like it. She wouldn’t move them so it all collapsed. The lesson in both these examples is you need to sell your ideas to the staff.”

@ Zoo Atlanta

Coe also did several other projects for Atlanta including the Masai Mara and Asian Forest. Masai Mara recreates the African savanna with African elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras and antelope. “We were told we had to keep the old elephant nighthouse and build a new habitat around it,” Coe reflected. “That resulted in the elephant habitat being in the center of the zoo with not much room to expand. I’m not too keen on that but the lion habitat turned out really well. It was the beginning of the idea of built in furniture as enrichment. The big rock formation was designed for all the sun angles to hit it so there would always be shade in summer and sun in winter. Animals love being above visitors and the views elevation provides them. It’s the perfect piece of solar furniture. We hid the fence in the back and hide behind a lot of trees. Before you couldn’t do that because the cats would just go back and hide in the shade, but now they had this rock formation to provide for their microclimate needs, which also positioned them in the ideal location for public viewing. When you invest in builtin enrichment you need to provide features the animal will never get tired of. “

@ Zoo Atlanta

On the other hand, Asian Forest starred tigers and orangutans. “Terry Maple had been leading tours in Africa for some time so he talked the Atlanta TV station in to sponsoring trips for us to travel around the world for exhibit projects,” Coe said. “We took a tour to Indonesia and visited wild orangutans. A lot of that input went into the designs of Asian Forest. We designed the 55 foot high climbing tower of logs and on the first day a young orangutan stood upright at the very top with his hands up in the air. It was like he was saying he wanted even more height.”

@ Zoo Atlanta

The 1990s would feature several landmark projects for CLR and Jon Coe’s career. One was Habitat Africa at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, which opened in 1993. “We did the first part of Habitat Africa with the savanna- the giraffes, the wild dogs,” he recalled. “I thought it came out very well. It really looks like you’re in Africa. The selection of planting to look like thornbush and the artificial rockwork was very successful. I think the basic problem was that we had to use the existing giraffe building and had to have giraffes in it while we built it. The indoor giraffe area we added is flooded with a natural light from the transparent roof and is very nice but we could have done a much better job if we just tore the old giraffe building down and started over.”

@ Brookfield Zoo

CLR also designed primate facilities at the Oklahoma City Zoo and the Denver Zoo. "OKC was another example of an old time, run down zoo we had a lot of impact on,” Coe recalled. “They were very open to new ideas and Gary had a great relationship with the director. We did a lot of really good work there- Great EscApe and Cat Forest. For Great EscApe we came up with this idea where the apes’ environment would have four parts. The first would be a nighthouse off exhibit while the second area would be this highly enriched indoor area the apes could use- like a gymnasium. Naturalistic in function but not appearance. We called it the ‘day room’ but it was also the community sleeping area at night if the apes preferred it. Then there would be an outdoor sheltered area under a roof where they could still be comfortable outdoors in rain or snow. Then finally there would be a large outdoor naturalistic area. The animals would get to choose where they wanted to be. We used the same idea in Denver for Primate Panorama.”

@ Oklahoma City Zoo

“I had a strong role in Denver’s Primate Panorama,” Coe explained. “Their director was Clayton Freiheit, one of the real silverbacks of the zoo world. Clayton was a very dominant individual but Gary Lee would just tease him. He kept quietly observing the work we were doing and then called us. The first thing we did was the master plan and then we did primate panorama. We used the same ideas for the gorillas and orangutans we used for the gorillas, chimps and orangs in OKC but in Denver there were large existing trees for the apes to use. The orangutans are up in the trees a lot. OKC on the other hand didn’t have a lot of trees. The other thing we did that was revolutionary in Primate Panorama was the baseway that allowed the monkeys to go into their netted area. That was a frontrunner to what we did in Philadelphia.”

@ Scott Richardson

The crown jewel of Jon Coe’s career was his triumphant return to the Woodland Park Zoo designing Northern Trail with Gary Lee and the CLR team including Nevin Lash and Larry Dame. It realistically recreates the frigid taiga of Alaska featuring grizzly bears, mountain goats, wolves, elk, river otters and sea eagles in habitats that look as if they share one enormous wilderness. “Northern Trail is often thought of as one of the two best immersion exhibits ever done along with Congo Gorilla Forest at the Bronx Zoo,” Coe explained. “When Bill Conway walked through it, I overheard him saying this is so good it’s frightening. Gary Lee and I designed it. Gary came up with the idea that you’d go on a boardwalk to navigate through the Northern Trail. You’re looking across on one side. My role was more in refining it- the sightlines and views, the sculptures, the underwater viewing, the finer scale of it."

@ Scott Richardson

“Northern Trail was a further advancement of what we did with the Savanna,” Coe elaborated. “We call it sightline design. If you put the visitor in the right position, you get these great perspectives. It’s a real masterful job of setting up the viewing areas and producing the right look. I remember watching people see the bear and the mountain goat in the afternoon when the sun went into the view and the mountain goat lit up like a lantern. One teenage girl I was observing was making the hand motion one does when framing a picture. I had designed it deliberately to have this effect and she fully got it. Northern Trail was the best immersion exhibit I ever contributed to. The excellence of both it and Congo are a result of historical circumstance. Success depends very much on the client. Woodland Park had been doing these beautiful immersion habitats continuously with or without me- it was embedded in their culture so they knew how to do it very well. If you look at Congo with the Bronx Zoo, director Bill Conway, staff designers Lee Ehmke and John Gwynne- exactly the same thing. Their in-house team had the depth of vision and culture to do it with Conway demanding and achieving excellence.”

@ Scott Richardson

@ Scott Richardson

At this point in his career, Coe was not just focused on creating naturalistic immersive spaces but also enriching ones too. An example of this is Chimpanzees of Mahale Mountain at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Gary and I did two different master plans for two different directors at Los Angeles but nothing came of them,” he remarked. “We did concept plans for the ape habitats and did the chimp habitat first. My recollection was the old habitat was a circular grotto with a pile of rocks in the middle. The visitors were throwing things down at the chimps and vice versa. It was constant warfare. They had four generations of chimps there held together by their shared enemy, the zoo visitors. Our projected brief was to combine these two old spaces into one habitat. I realized the aggression was caused by a line-drawn-in-the-sand between two dominant territorial species. What we did was unite two big areas by a highly differentiated series of glass walls. Sometimes they project in, sometimes out. There’s no clear defensible line. There’s a giant roof at the viewing area equally over the chimp and visitor area- it helps equalize the environments. Also, the chimps were given the higher ground. The waterfall was very cooling and enriching too and the chimp habitat is a good example of how to use enrichment. The chimp’s aggression disappeared overnight. Working on the project led to the publication of my paper ‘Affiliative Design.’”

@ Los Angeles Zoo

Even more unique was the first class penthouse built for the chimpanzees. “Because the chimp habitat was a steep hill site we built a multi-level holding building with the mesh covered penthouse on top,” Coe commented. ‘What’s really remarkable is that it was designed so the chimps could sleep outdoors if they wanted to. The young animals slept outside while the older ones would choose to sleep with a roof under their head. They had the choice as to where they could be. I showed Jane Goodall around the habitat during construction and went into the penthouse with her. From this elevated position you can see on forever. She agreed it just felt like you weren’t being contained. Everything about the environment made the chimps feel like thy were in control. The waterfall was very enriching too and that chimp habitat is a good example of how to use enrichment.”

@ Los Angeles Zoo

In one situation, Coe had to help out a zoo that had undergone a major tragedy. On Christmas Eve 1995, a fire destroyed the Philadelphia Zoo’s gorilla house and killed all the primates who lived inside. The devastated zoo was determined to come back from this tragic blow by building a brand new facility giving the best life possible for the primates. Coe and CLR were hired to design this major project in their hometown of Philadelphia.

@ Philadelphia Zoo

@ Philadelphia Zoo

“What we worked out with then curator of primates Andy Baker was we were very aware Bronx was going to do Congo and it was going to be the most immersive habitat ever done,” he explained. “We knew we couldn’t afford to compete in that area so we decided to do something different with PECO Primate Reserve. The distinction is at PECO the commitment was to make good year-round indoor/outdoor areas so the animals could always be seen in large highly enriched spaces. Instead of doing realistic three season exhibits where great apes and other primates are kept in small holding rooms 16 hours a day, we’d provide large and very tall enriched spaces available to the apes 24 hours a day and this in addition to large outdoor yards. Also, we built in animal rotation options. For example, while the gorillas were outside colobus monkeys could use their very large indoor space and visitors wouldn’t see empty display areas. We came up with this storyline of a global lumber company cutting down a tropical forest and then donating the land and mill to become a primate sanctuary. We literally designed the building to look like an old lumber mill while the outdoor area looks like a reforestation project.” PECO Primate Reserve opened in 1999 bringing back gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and lemurs to the zoo in a complex, enriched and kinesthetic space.

@ Philadelphia Zoo

@ Philadelphia Zoo

Jon Coe and CLR were committed to doing things that had never been done before if a better way could be found. At the Louisville Zoo’s Islands they created the first ever rotation of predator and prey species through a set of habitats. Tigers, orangutans, babirusas, siamangs and Malayan tapirs all rotate between a series of habitats recreating the tropical environment of Indonesia. “Islands at Louisville was an example of where a zoo’s director and senior staff were completely onboard,” Coe said. “They wanted to do something better and different and they understood the animal enrichment value of the animal rotation concept. We all looked at each other with the question of ‘Okay then just how do we make this rotation work?’ Jane Ann Franklin was a head keeper there and she said ‘I don’t know how yet but I’ll make it work!’”

@ Louisville Zoo

@ Louisville Zoo

Coe gives Franklin’s ambition, expertise and patience much of the credit to the success of Islands. “She’s one of my heroes to this day,” he praised. “The way she figured it out is a perfect model to this day. All the animals- tigers, orangs, babirusa- were target trained. They’d go where they wanted you to go. What Jane Ann Franklin did was every morning she’d meet with other members of the staff and make a different one ‘head keeper of the day’ to figure out the rotation. One of those keepers would be responsible for deciding when and what sequence the animals would rotate to make it more unpredictable. The system was very complex and there was a lot of room for error. Jane Ann’s mindset was if it’s your job to do that and you’re trying to make it new you’re going to make it happen very mindfully and consciously. Each keeper was quietly competing with each other to create the most enriching sequence. They have a buddy system where on keeper is shifting and another one is operating. They’ve had no problems to this day.”

@ Louisville Zoo

During the upcoming years Jon Coe and Gary Lee helped to design a variety of zoo habitats including the Ndoki Forest for gorillas, elephants and meerkats at the Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina and the African Savanna at the San Francisco Zoo. One that was particularly innovative and spectacular was with a species he’d had great success with over the years: gorillas for Gorilla Forest at the Louisville Zoo. “We had learned a lot from Islands and Gorilla Forest was the chance to do something really large,” Coe elaborated. “They didn’t have any gorillas so they had the opportunity to borrow this big troop from Lincoln Park. The idea was the gorillas would have this series of indoor/outdoor habitats they could rotate between. We did the indoor rotation where they’re all circling around the visitors. The gorillas can go in each one wherever they want. All the doors are open and sometimes they choose to be inside because it’s air-conditioned. If they want to be alone or choose which other gorilla they want to be with, they have that choice. It’s the gorilla’s choice where they want to go.”

@ Louisville Zoo

Gorilla Forest was carefully designed to provide the gorillas opportunities to be curious, engaged, playful, challenged and stimulated. “Gorilla Forest gives them two giant areas and two smaller areas,” Coe explained. “It’s great from an animal welfare perspective. The indoor areas give access to a wide variety of changing enrichments they want to use.” The space provides them a wide variety of enrichments to use keeping their experience fresh and exciting. “The designer’s role is to build in good lasting built-in enrichment and access,” Coe commented. “They also should provide as much room as possible for the development of enrichment in the future. It’s particularly important for new designers to understand their role is to set up stuff that will happen in the habitat long after they’re gone.” Gorilla Forest’s complexity and brilliance was recognized when it won the 2003 AZA Exhibit of the Year award.

@ Louisville Zoo

One of Jon Coe’s last projects for CLR was Wolf Woods at the Brookfield Zoo, designed to serve as a training ground for endangered Mexican wolves who would be introduced back into the wild. “The zoo’s long time director and eminent George Rapp was really interested in wolves so this was kind of his last legacy before he retired,” he commented. “We needed to build two one acre areas: one of which was totally off exhibit and the other was visible to the public but couldn’t allow the wolves to be habituated or too comfortable with humans. The offspring of these wolves were planned to be put back into the wild in Arizona so they couldn’t trust humans. We needed to have as naturalistic an area as we possibly could.”

@ Brookfield Zoo

One of the ways Coe and his team addressed these challenges was by designing a building that had one way mirrored windows so the wolves could not see the visitors watching them. “That’s actually a building I designed myself, rather than only developing the concept and turning it over to one of our architects” he added. “As a piece of architecture I had a guiding role in it. It’s sunken so the wolves are above you and you can see the wolves but they can’t see you.” Wolf Woods has been highly successful for its role in the Mexican wolf recovery program with several of the critically endangered Mexican wolves descended from this group sent back to the wild.

@ Brookfield Zoo

In 2004, Jon Coe retired from CLR but he has continued to come up with groundbreaking ideas for the zoo field and served as an instrumental thinker about the future of zoos. One of these projects has been Zoo360 at the Philadelphia Zoo that allows many of its animals to explore the entire zoo’s grounds through interconnected trails that go above visitor pathways. “I said ‘Why can’t we hook up everything in the zoo to everything else and basically let the animals have the run of the place?’” Coe remarked. These groundbreaking exploration trails not only allow the animals to roam around the zoo but create a much more engaging, enriching experience for them. It lets the Philadelphia Zoo’s animals have greater agency over creating their own experience and choosing which environment they are in.

@ Philadelphia Zoo

@ Philadelphia Zoo

@ Jon Coe

A video Jon Coe took of grizzly bears at Woodland Park Zoo's Northern Trail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN6e_NHscoc

#WoodlandParkZoo #NorthwestTrek #BrookfieldZoo #ZooAtlanta #BronxZoo #OregonZoo #PointDefianceZoo #PittsburghZoo #ToledoZoo #LouisvilleZoo #OklahomaCityZoo #DenverZoo #PhiladelphiaZoo #LosAngelesZoo #RiverbanksZoo

You Might Also Like:
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-pos
0824BZ_3117TA
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-pos
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-pos
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-pos
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-pos
maruska
charlie
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-pos
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-pos
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-post/2017/05/14/A-Life-Devoted-to-the-ModernConservation-Zoo-A-Cons
https://www.zoophoria.net/single-post/2017/08/03/Connecting-People-to-Living-Things-in-an-Emotional-

I'm a 23-year old wildlife enthusiast, conservation and animal welfare advocate, environmental activist and zoo fanatic who aspires to work in zoo public relations or education. I am here to share some insight into the world's best zoos to show all the great things they are doing. 

 

About Me
Search by Tags
No tags yet.

© 2017 by Grayson Ponti