Fresno Chaffee Zoo's African Adventure Exhibit Receives an ENR Best-of-the-Best Award

The African Adventure exhibit at Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California won a 2016 award for best landscape/urban development project from Engineering News-Record.

The exhibit was designed by MIG|Portico of Seattle (formerly The Portico Group) and built by Harris Construction Co. of Fresno, MIG said in a press release.

There were over 700 submissions for the awards. ENR said they represent the pinnacle of U.S. design and construction between May 2015 and June 2016.

Charles Mayes, the zoo exhibit's principal architect, said “Our design goal was to create the most authentic African exhibit ever in a North American zoo. We focused on the experience that people would have if they were to go on safari in today's Africa — immersive and contemporary, with expansive views of open spaces for the animals.”

The 13-acre exhibit was completed in October 2015.

MIG|Portico said the team had to overcome logistical challenges in the 100-year-old public park, create an authentic environment with natural components, and accommodate animals, visitors and staff.

The $55.7 million habitat evokes famous East African parks, such as Serengeti and Tarangire, MIG|Portico said. It contains 100 species, including elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, lions, meerkats, zebras and cheetahs.

ADA-compliant trails from the main Kopje Lodge and Mahali Gathering Place offer 360-degree views of the savanna. There's also a gift shop, classroom, restrooms, kitchen, restaurant and giraffe feeding platform.

A total of 374 of the 413 trees in the park (some of which date to 1903) were saved, thanks to “tree-protection zones” where vehicles and equipment were prohibited.

The team includes MLA Engineering, structural; Alan Mok Engineering, civil; LP Consulting Engineers, mechanical, electrical and plumbing; T.A. Maranda Consulting, life support consultant; and Zoological Lighting Services, lighting consultant.