Detroit Zoological Institute


Ford Center for Environmental & Conservation Education

Royal Oak, Michigan

42,000 GSF, 3,902 M2

Architecture, Engineering, Interior Architecture, Lighting Design, Programming


Today's world-class zoos demand designs that inspire a child's imagination while creating a sophisticated cultural venue for all. SmithgroupJJR pulled off this special balancing act with the latest thinking in environmental stewardship and wildlife conservation at the Ford Center north of Detroit.

Going a step farther, the firm created a participatory, immersive zoological experience with varied functional zones connected by an airy, two-story atrium. A discovery lab and Wild Adventure Simulator ride create memorable encounters, reinforced by education in classrooms and a 250-seat theater. Its three distinct functional areas are immediately recognizable in the building's shape and convenient layout: education wing, arts wing, and adventure ride.

The result is a wood-clad, modern venue for multiple uses that appeals to school groups and Zoological Society members alike. It has been a magnet for a growing audience of zoo visitors, too. Its environmentally conscious, energy-saving design directly reflects the Institute's conservation mission, with lots of fresh air, natural materials and economical operations.

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