The primary goal of this Zoo project is to create a highly-functional space for animals with very specialized needs.” — PGAV Destinations project lead Stacey Tarpley
St. Louis, MO, USA — PGAV Destinations has been selected for the design of the relocation of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo (BBAZ), California’s only wild animal rescue and rehabilitation facility of its kind.
BBAZ offers a safe haven for injured, orphaned, and imprinted wild animals, aiming to enhance human understanding and respect for the value of our ecosystem. Begun in the aftermath of a 1959 San Bernardino National Forest wild fire, BBAZ is home to a wide range of injured, abandoned, or illegal-pet-recovery animals. The plan calls for the Zoo to relocate a short distance within the City of Big Bear Lake.
“This project is a very exciting for us and we can’t wait to help them succeed,” says PGAV Destinations project lead Stacey Tarpley. “This is not about creating a thematic overlay or a guest-immersion environment; it’s about creating the best environment that supports the best possible life for each of these animals with unique disabilities.”
The animals suffer from a wide range of challenges, such as injuries sustained from cars and illegal hunting, birth defects (such as the Zoo’s one-eyed snow leopards), or animals orphaned at a young age, unable to return to the wild. Other animals include Huckleberry, the Zoo’s beloved three-legged black bear, more than 30 birds of prey, a family of grizzly bears, two timber wolf packs, a pair of orphaned sibling mountain lions, and many more.
PGAV Destinations was chosen based on the firm’s hands-on expertise and extensive history in zoo and destination location designs. The team will oversee the design of the Zoo’s new exhibits, support facilities, interpretation, landscaping, and staff facilities such as ticketing, retail, and offices.
“PGAV Destinations was the perfect fit [for this project],” said Debra Richardson, BBAZ curator. “I think they’re awesome. They’re an excellent company, they’ve done a lot of work with different zoos, and they’ve worked with us in the past, so we know the quality of their work.”
“We’re focusing on how to tell the Zoo’s story and bring their mission to the forefront at the new site,” said Tarpley. “We’ll be drawing on our recent experiences on projects with similar missions like the Heart of Africa at the Columbus Zoo, Glacier Run at the Louisville Zoo, Edge of Africa at Busch Gardens, and Florida’s Dolphin Research Center.”
One of the most unique challenges of BBAZ’s relocation and redesign is the approach to designing the animals’ exhibits. Typically, zoo exhibit designers know in advance the population of animals that will reside in future exhibits, such as six giraffes, two cheetahs, one hippopotamus and others, but these exhibits will need to remain flexible, as the nature of BBAZ’s mission mandates a constantly changing collection of animals.
“It’s a fascinating way to approach zoo exhibit design,” says Tarpley. “It’s not about designing a raccoon habitat or a snow leopard habitat. It’s about designing flexible spaces with appropriate enrichment for the types of animals that may inhabit them in the future, from the curious and energized, to the calm and sedate, to the social. We need to deeply understand the wide variety of animal behaviors and abilities that might exist in these spaces, and then create the most comfortable and stimulating environments appropriate for that variety.”
Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin October 2015.
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