Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Phase 1B


This project for the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium includes a link between the parking area and the Zoo entry, the replacement of the Entry Gate, a renovated and expanded Café, new Education Center, new Gift Shop, and Public Restrooms. These buildings are organized around a new public space, a central plaza, providing a place for orientation as visitors begin their zoo experience.

A path takes the visitor from their car down a series of vistas framed with evergreens and a banner tower which overlooks the Zoo, with Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains as a backdrop setting the scene for this uniquely Northwest attraction. Upon arrival, visitors step out onto the Pacific Rim Plaza, an orientation point as visitors plan how to take in the exhibits. The Pacific Rim Plaza also is an educational tool graphically portraying the geography of the Pacific Rim, which Zookeepers use to help illustrate the origins of animals they bring to display on the Plaza.

The buildings represent a family of elongated structures traversing the slope of the hill, taking advantage of views. They define the edges of the Plaza’s public space while enticing visitors inside with large glass fronts facing the Plaza. Dormers provide natural light to the interiors, and include louvers to naturally ventilate the spaces. Landscaping is comprised of native materials planted to integrate with the native Point Defiance Park vegetation and to save on irrigation. These buildings surrounding the entry gateway to the Zoo establish a unified, engaging character and feel, and along with the vistas created by the entry path, add to an exciting Northwest experience for the Zoo visitor.

Client: Tacoma Metro Parks

Location: Tacoma, WA

Size: 12,800 SF

Project Team:
Christopher J. Lilley, AIA
Bob Bonnet
Garner Miller