Denver Zoo Tropical Discovery
Denver, Colorado, USA
Denver Zoological Foundation
41,000 Sq. Ft.
Public Projects, Recreation
Tropical Discovery is a conservatory-type building that provides a real-life rainforest environment in a 1.5-acre tropical ecosystem. The Denver Zoo's exhibit and education center is home to 140 species of plants, 123 species of fish, and over 1200 animals representing over 200 species such as mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
An offshore coral reef, tropical marshes, temple ruins, cypress, and mangrove swamps have been created throughout the complex. With over 13 pools forming the pathway around the exhibit, 24 glass-fronted tanks, 3 waterfalls, and a jungle river, Pinkard faced very complex waterproofing challenges in installing four different waterproofing systems specified in the architect's construction documents. Intricate life support systems were installed that precisely regulate each exhibit environment for the vast array of both plant and animal species requiring maintenance of proper temperatures.
The building is topped with two pyramid-shaped skylights providing natural light for almost 3/4 of the building. One of the skylights stands 45 feet above the ground. A temple inside nearly reaches the pyramid's peak. Although there are 22,000 square feet of display area, the total square footage, including service areas and holding pens, is nearly 41,000. The exterior involved Pinkard's execution of extensive architectural cast-in-place concrete work.
With the construction of Tropical Discovery, the Denver Zoo is one of the few zoos in the country that has created natural habitats and biological ecosystems that blend the best of biology and botany. It is a fascinating and unique opportunity for visitors to experience the immense diversity of life in the tropics and to gain a greater appreciation for the fragile nature of this important ecosystem.