The New and Improved Kansas City Zoo

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Published on: Jul. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

Pavilion, along with the Ozark garden courtyard and an aquarium displaying native Missouri fish.

As I parked my car in the Hippo Parking Lot of the zoo, my head was filled with everyday worries. I headed toward an archway that marked the path to the zoo. The zoo's statement of purpose on the arch interrupted my mundane thoughts. "The Kansas City Zoological Gardens is committed to environmental education and wildlife conservation through recreation and participation."

Beyond this sign, I saw the Education Pavilion nestled into a valley, its rolling copper roof reflecting the morning sun. A walkway edged in stone sloped down to the entrance. The facility first opened to the public in 1995.

The structure of the Pavilion itself strictly adheres to the zoo's conservation oriented mission. Friends of the zoo, which manages the building and raised the $16.5 million for its construction, originally directed the architects to create a building friendly to the natural environment in every way possible, including technology and materials. The building's walls and ceiling are super insulated and there is ultimate utilization of natural light.

Some of the building's most beautiful features conserved tremendous amounts of energy during construction. The building's structure is primarily of salvaged lumber with the wood surfaces from sustainably managed sources.

The Journey's entrance is the first thing visitors see when entering the Education Pavilion. Not putting visitors immediately out with the animals was a novel concept for a zoo. The Journey sets the stage, putting visitors into a certain mind-set for what they are going to experience on their visit.

Jay Tomlinson, one of the Deramus Education Pavilion architects, explained. "In The Journey we wanted to slow people down, turn off their senses that are barraged by everyday life and turn on the senses not normally exercised. We try to elicit a subconscious sense that man is a part of nature, not above nature or separated from it."

With the fateful message of The Journey echoing in my head, I looked out toward the Ozark Garden. A lush grove of native flora with a meandering waterfall forms a courtyard visible from all parts of the Education Pavilion. After crossing this quiet midwestern garden, guests decide which part of the world they wish to visit. Shall they tour the plains of Africa, the Okavango Elephant Sanctuary, Australia or Farmland in the U.S.A.?

A unique feature awaits visitors as they leave the education pavilion. Children's artwork covers an entire

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