National Zoo’s Conservation Pavilion Wins AIA Award for Excellence
by 
Jeanine Quaglia
October 30, 2019

10.30.19 – The new Conservation Pavilion at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., designed by Quinn Evans, has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Baltimore chapter with a 2019 Award for Excellence in Sustainable & Resilient Design. According to the AIA, the project “honors the history of the Olmsted Park, while providing a much needed facility and venue. The design goes above and beyond the LEED® Gold standard by including thoughtful and sustainable exterior environments.”

Set along the historic Olmsted walk, the 7,500-square-foot pavilion serves as a visitor amenity and event and education space. The two-story building includes multi-use space adjoining an exterior plaza on the upper level and restrooms on the lower level. The upper floor features extensive audio-visual technology and exhibition infrastructure, and can be used for lectures, workshops, banquets, and other events. Large expanses of glass illuminate the interior with natural light and create framed views of the park.

The design drew inspiration from the zoo’s historic architectural vernacular as well as the public park structures built as part of the Works Progress Administration. The steel and glass pavilion, which was built on the site of a former wood and stone picnic structure, showcases a modest yet transformational strategy for other aging facilities at the zoo. The exterior walls are clad in stone that matches the original Carderock stone prevalent throughout the park. 

Sustainable strategies include reflective, high-albedo gray roof shingles; fritted, bird-friendly glazing; FSC cedar wood; reclaimed heart pine floors; an energy-efficient HVAC design featuring an energy recovery wheel; a pollinator playground exhibit; and a bio-retention area. The AIA noted “the Pollinator Playground and bio-retention spaces not only provide a much needed environment for pollinators, but aim to educate the next generation on the importance of these organisms and create a landscape that benefits both humans and wildlife. The jury liked the bird-friendly glazing, recognizing the role that architecture plays in the well-being of bird population.” 

The project required approvals from the Commission of Fine Arts, the D.C. State Historic Preservation Office, and the National Capital Planning Commission. In addition to Quinn Evans, team members included Mueller Associates for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design; Rhodeside & Harwell, Inc., for landscape architecture; Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger for structural engineering; A. Morton Thomas for civil engineering; and GHD for fire protection and life safety systems design. The general contractor was Consigli Construction Company, Inc.  

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