woodland park zoo | seattle, washington | usa

Woodland Park Zoo has a long history of precedent-setting and award-winning immersive exhibit design, with recent exhibits moving further into the realm of telling stories about the particular conservation efforts that the Zoo is involved in.  In "Penguins of the Humboldt Coast", Studio Hanson|Roberts and the Zoo embarked on a new model that not only integrates extraordinary visitor experience and learning opportunities with exceptional animal welfare, but does so in a way that underscores and celebrates innovative and sustainable strategies for water and energy conservation.


Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA/US:) 2010 Top Honors | Exhibit Achievement Award
Seattle Design Commission: 2009 Design Excellence Award


"Penguins of the Humboldt Coast" opened in May 2009 after an innovative design process that involved all levels of Staff in ‘try-storming’ exercises to simulate the future reality.  The result is a magical new immersive environment for up to 60 penguins that also demonstrates sustainable technologies that have saved the Zoo thousands of dollars in energy and water costs.

Turning on the Tap Only Once:
Woodland Park Zoo’s initial 20 penguins discovered an exciting new home when they took their first dive into their 32,000 gallon pool that is heated and cooled by geo-thermal wells, filtered by an innovative sand filter with natural wetlands treating the backwash, and topped up periodically with recovered rainwater. The goal was to draw potable water from the system only once and then to care for it – over and over again.

The creative use of dog-kennels-as-nest-boxes has proven such a success that the colony continues to add, on average, seven chicks a year to the population.

Visitors can experience the birds both above and below water in an environment that replicates the shores of the Punta San Juan Reserve in Peru – a sanctuary that supports wildlife and guano mining at the same time.

Collaboration With:

  • Ted Maranda & Micheal Ogden of Natural Systems International
  • Woodland Park Zoo