CLR Design

Evolutionary Thinking in Habitats


Planning Zoos for Generations

Every client has a vision; our job is to make it a reality.
We work with you to formulate a Comprehensive Master Plan
— a report that includes physical planning, policy planning
and business planning.

A clear vision and defined strategy result in smooth
implementation of both the project at hand, as well as the
facility’s future growth and sustainability.


Zoo. Logical.

We realize that our clients are the animal management experts, so our exhibit designs draw on that expertise as well as input from architects, landscape architects, botanists, biologists, zoologists, horticulturalists, animal behaviorists, educators and guest service professionals. The result? A safe, stimulating environment that satisfies the staff’s requirements and animals’ needs while providing the ultimate educational and fun experience for visitors.


Cheetah Conservation Fund

Namibia, Africa

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is an internationally recognized research, education and conservation organization focusing on cheetahs and their eco-systems. The primary objective of the Facilities Master Plan Report, prepared by CLR Design in 2006, was to provide a 5 to 10 year framework for how to develop and manage the CCF headquarters based in Namibia, Africa, in a sustainable and efficient manner while incorporating the vision and mission of the institution. The key objectives of the report also included: identifying short and long-term infrastructure priorities; defining key, mission-based projects; prioritizing eco-tourism concepts; and identifying education programming concepts.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Cincinnati, Ohio

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, a National Historic Landmark, is the second oldest zoo in America. CLR completed a Master Plan for this unique 75-acre site that respects its historical integrity while utilizing its diverse animal and plant collection to move it into the forefront of exhibit design and conservation efforts.

The Master Plan, allowing for a 10 to 20 year implementation schedule, addressed over a dozen major exhibits and visitor amenities. With the proposed relocation of all visitor parking to a newly acquired 14-acre tract of land, the Master Plan proposed a major new entry complex, improvements to existing circulation systems, and a dramatic increase in animal exhibit land use. In addition, and in fulfillment of the Zoo's commitment to conservation, initial concepts were developed for a 100-acre satellite Conservation and Breeding Center. In partnership with the vision and direction of the CLR-designed Master Plan, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is fulfilling its mission.

Following the Master Plan

• The New Entry that CLR planned has been designed and built by a local architecture firm.

• The Education Center was designed by CLR with a local architect of record and opened
   in 2006.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Cleveland, Ohio

In 2011, CLR completed a Site Master Plan in collaboration with Schultz & Williams and the Strategic Planning Steering Committee for the 183-acre Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The Site Master Plan provides a 10-year framework for the development of the campus.

The effort involved collecting and analyzing all relevant site data, including existing circulation, land use, visitor services, exhibits, operations and more. The data was used to develop new land use and circulation concepts that addressed the Zoo’s entry experience, circulation, animal population organization, education and research programs. The Site Master Plan report produced provides a road map of the Zoo’s future, highlighting several priority projects through 2022.

These priority projects include a new lion exhibit, event pavilion, carousel and children’s play zone, penguin exhibit and a new multi-species mega savanna.

Denver Zoological Gardens

Denver, Colorado

CLR and the Denver Zoo have worked together for over 15 years on master planning, exhibit design and visitor service amenities. This Millennium Facilities Master Plan includes projects ranging from large marquee species to small primates. All of the projects are carefully planned and organized to increase visitor membership and provide an exciting diversity of visitor experiences.

Over this 15-year period, the Denver Zoo has seen visitor attendance and membership increase from 750,000 to over 1.5 million visitors.

Following the Master Plan

• CLR provided full architectural design and construction contract administration services for the new AZA award-winning Entrance & Predator Ridge exhibit, opened in 2005.

• CLR recently completed design of the new Asian Tropics experience and is now overseeing construction of that project.

• In 2009, CLR began preliminary efforts to again update the Millennium Master Plan.

Hershey Park's ZooAmerica

Hershey, Pennsylvania

CLR completed this master planning effort for the 11-acre ZooAmerica site working closely with Zoo staff as well as the adjacent theme park staff of Hershey Park. An early planning effort was to reaffirm the Zoo’s focus on North American species, improve the quality of life for the animals, improve the guest experience, and maximize the site for animal exhibits. The site presented a number of challenges including its relatively small size, steep topography, and a stream splitting the site. A further challenge included accommodating the significant volume of visitors generated from the adjacent theme park site. The final master plan clarified the circulation system, introduced a new neotropics thematic exhibit zone, included a new family adventure zone with amphitheater facilities, and upgraded existing North American woodland species exhibits — all within a very modest development budget.

International Crane Foundation

Baraboo, Wisconsin

The International Crane Foundation (ICF) is located on its 225-acre campus in Baraboo, Wisconsin. With crane/wetland habitat conservation programs worldwide, ICF desired a campus master plan that would complement its education and conservation mission. Goals of the plan included: enhancing the visitor experience through new exhibits and entry sequence and services; preserving and restoring in-situ ecosystems; and developing new crane habitats to exhibit all the crane species. ICF is the ONLY single location in the world home to all of Earth's 15 crane species and maintains a captive crane population for breeding and reintroduction into the wild. Total estimate of campus improvements is $10M to $12M.

Following the Master Plan

• CLR provided concept design services for an African crane exhibit experience recently opened.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville, Florida

CLR completed this Master Plan Update for the Jacksonville Zoo incorporating its current 89-acre site in addition to studying two additional parcels on the east and west sides of the zoo (an additional 35 acres). The plan created a new circulation system to accommodate the opening of the Range of the Jaguar Exhibit in 2004 as well as a long-range plan to accommodate four new major anchor exhibits: Kid's Zone, Manatee River, Monsoon Asia, and Hippo River.

The plan suggested realignment of the existing train to better serve exhibits and to provide an improved guest experience (ride). The plan also suggested improvements that opened the Zoo site to the Trout River waterfront with wetland exhibits, nature walks, gardens, and waterfront activities. A series of short-term action plans were developed to improve the guest experience without requiring huge capital investments.

Following the Master Plan

• CLR provided full architectural design and construction contract administration services for the AZA award-winning Range of the Jaguar in 2004.

• CLR provided master planning services for Monsoon Asia, a new major anchor exhibit.

• CLR provided full architectural design and construction contract administration services for the new Komodo Dragon exhibit opened in 2009.

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

Naples, Florida

CLR collaborated with the Naples Zoo to develop a 7 to 10-year master plan vision through implementation of six phases of development impacting all parts of the campus. Beautifully nestled in a historically rich botanical collection, the Master Plan identified a combination of new animal exhibits, visitor amenities, and service facilities. Improvements were designed to enhance the visitor experience, animal collection and the business plan.

A new entry is envisioned with exhibits and visitor services to enrich the experience and improve revenue. New animal shows will be added to enhance the show experience. A major new food venue will be centrally located, catering to visitors and special community events. The Master Plan addressed an expansion of the Zoo footprint to 45 acres including three major exhibit zones of Asia, Tropical Americas and Coastal Africa. In addition, a new major parking facility and service/support hub was developed.

Following the Master Plan

• In 2008, CLR provided concept design services for the New Entry and Black Bear Hammock.

Oregon Zoo

Portland, Oregon

The Comprehensive Capital Master Plan is evolving the Oregon Zoo into a state-of-the-art campus with game changing exhibits and a highly sustainable campus ecology footprint. In tandem with rigorous attention to animal welfare, activity and visitor experience, and comprehensive sustainable water and energy infrastructure that supports and adapts to emerging technologies, the Zoo is in the midst of completing seven bond-funded projects totaling $125 million.

The Oregon Zoo aspires to become the most significant and inspiring conservation and sustainability educational tool in the metro area, demonstrating the successful coexistence of humans, animals, and nature, and operating as a vital link to local and global species and habitat conservation and survival.

Following the Master Plan

• CLR provided full architectural design and construction for:

Elephants Lands Exhibit - 2017 AZA Top Honors

• CLR is also currently designing and entering construction phases for Polar Bear Passage and Primate Forest, with renovations to the existing Rhino Exhibit

Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

CLR was engaged by the Zoological Society of Philadelphia to prepare a Master Plan Update to guide development of the 43-acre Zoo for the next ten years. A critical phase of this planning incorporated significant accomplishments from the earlier CLR Master Plan with a series of refined goals and objectives. As part of this effort, several major projects were programmed and conceptually designed to work within the Master Plan context: a new carnivore project — Big Cat Falls; a new Children's Zoo; and a new Aviary project.

Working with a master plan committee at the Zoo, CLR developed plans and strategies to secure a vital future for the Zoo through physical improvements, guided by a recommitment to conservation, education, and recreation.

Utah's Hogle Zoo

Salt Lake City, Utah

CLR completed a comprehensive facility Master Plan for Utah’s Hogle Zoo in 1999 and was retained to update it in 2007.

Located in the foothills of the Wasatch mountain range, the Zoo's challenging topography required in-depth site analysis to determine the best development options for improving the visitor circulation system and maximizing land-use for animal habitats. Utah's new zoo plan aims to meet functional requirements for annual attendance cresting one million visitors, along with new facilities for animal health and new principles for exhibit and habitat design. The new Master Plan proposes a project implementation schedule that will maintain the momentum of development initiated by the 1999 plan and literally transform the Zoo over the next 10 to 15 years.

Following the Master Plan

• The New Entry was designed by CLR with a local architect of record and opened in 2002.

• CLR provided full architectural design and construction contract administration services for Elephant Encounter exhibit, opened in 2005.

• The LEED Gold certified, 7,200 square foot L.S. Skaggs Animal Health Center, a state-of-the-art veterinary facility, opened in 2009.

• Rocky Shores, designed by CLR and showcasing the bears, sea lions, and other animals of the North American Northwest, opened in 2012.

• The 4.5 acre African Savanna, designed by CLR, opened in 2014.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore


CLR completed a comprehensive Master Plan for Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), home to one of the world’s most famous and innovative zoos. Wildlife Reserves Singapore operates the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari at the Mandai precinct. The three parks are adjacent to each other but separately gated, and thus the planning presented unique challenges not faced by a typical zoo master plan.

After many years at the forefront of international zoos, WRS faced aging infrastructure, as well as visitor, tram and service traffic flow issues. The Master Plan also called for crafting more thematic organization of exhibits, implementation of sustainable Activity Based Management and Landscape Immersion concepts, all while balancing the park’s originality, creativity, distinctiveness and attractiveness.

The resulting document, a blueprint to maintain Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s reputation as a standard bearer for innovative and unique guest experiences, is one of the most complex Master Plans CLR has ever developed over the past 30 years.

African Savanna

San Francisco Zoo, San Francisco, California


Develop a new, unique African Savanna Exhibit maximizing visibility of all animals and showcasing Giraffes.


Place a visitor-view island in the center of a 2-acre savanna habitat accessed by tunnels from each side to create “viewing-in-the-round.”

Giraffe, zebras, kudu, dik-dik, duiker, ostrich, and oryx roam the new three-acre, mixed-species African Savanna exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo. Visitors get great, close-up views from a central waterhole-viewing area where many of the animals gather frequently. In an adjacent, giraffe holding building, many behind-the-scenes Zoo activities have been brought forward, allowing the visitor to witness how keepers care for the animals. Outside the building, visitors can watch — even participate — in giraffe feedings. Visitors entering the Zoo, or simply shopping at the Zoo gift shop, are pleasantly surprised to get a great view of a group of zebras in the distance followed by several curious ostrich.

Elephant Lands

Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon


Create an active indoor/outdoor elephant habitat, prioritizing environmental sustainability and a minimal energy footprint


In 2010, in collaboration with a team of local consultants, CLR completed a Comprehensive Capital Master Plan for the Oregon Zoo which will develop the Zoo into a state-of-the-art campus with game changing exhibits and a very light water and energy footprint. The first bond project from this initiative was a $44M, 6.5-acre exhibit for Asian elephants. Elephant Lands establishes an expansive elephant habitat comprised of flexible and diverse spaces that promote animal welfare, animal choice, and herd socialization. Key program elements include spacious new indoor and outdoor habitats for elephants, support facilities for animal management, and new guest path systems, activities, and amenities.

Elephant Lands received LEED Gold Certification. The sustainability initiatives for this project started back during the Comprehensive Master Planning efforts and continued through the Pre-Schematic and detailed phases of design. Key sustainability features include: stormwater planters, green roof, solar power, solar hot water, geothermal systems, green materials & reuse, habitat restoration strategies, natural ventilation, and other initiatives.

Entrance & Predator Ridge

Denver Zoological Gardens, Denver, Colorado


Replace the zoo’s aged, uninviting entry gateway and provide a new home for all staff offices and departments.


A dynamic, open office working environment for staff and a friendly and easy gateway experience for guests leading to an up-front major animal exhibit.

Two new timber-framed entry structures containing administrative offices, guest services and retail flank a new entry plaza with ticketing. The complex, themed as Savanna gaming trails, leads visitors from the entry drop-off, through the plaza past sculptures of life-size giraffes and klipspringers, to up-close exhibits showcasing the Samburu region of Africa. The Samburu theme carries through to Predator Ridge, a wonderful panorama of a simulated African savanna that unfolds just through the Zoo gateway, showcasing a pride of lions, cape hunting dogs and hyenas. A new interpretive center allows for nose-to-nose viewing while learning about the biology and conservation of these species. Animal care and management facilities include an 8,000 SF holding building, training and management zones, and an isolation and birthing suite. Innovative keeper care/activity stations include two "behind the scenes" stations and an artificial termite mound where keepers can interact with the animals.

Giants of the Savanna

Dallas Zoo, Dallas, Texas


Develop a multi-species, flexible habitat with demonstration and animal engagement opportunities to create the first


This $27M project encompasses a 11-acre site utilizing two multi-species savanna habitats for elephants, giraffe, zebra, impala and ostrich; a dry river bed habitat for red river hogs and warthogs; and kopje habitats for cheetah and lions. The habitats were designed to encourage active and natural behaviors from the animals and include many enrichment elements including three large swimming holes, three elephant activity stations, wallows, and a 12 meters tall artificial fig tree. Along with the eight animal habitats the site has five new barns and yards, a restaurant, restroom, base camp event building and several shade structures. Visitor experience encounters include: giraffe feeding, predator keeper demonstration area, habitat land rover photo opportunity, a cafe with panoramic views of the lions, a giraffe crossing drawbridge and an elephant/visitor interactive shower.

This was a design-build project delivery that included an aggressive 16-month project timeline including concept planning through tender documentation in six months, coupled with an overlapping construction period of 13 months.

Gorilla Forest

Louisville Zoological Garden, Louisville, Kentucky


Develop a new Tropical Africa Exhibit showcasing Gorillas and Pygmy Hippos.


Integrate indoor ‘in the round’ viewing of Gorillas and underwater viewing of Pygmy Hippos with an immersive forest viewing trail along outdoor habitats, and new gift and restroom visitor amenities.

The project was designed with the special animal husbandry requirements of bachelor troop of gorillas in mind. A “gorilla-in-the-round” dayroom concept allows the visitor to be immersed in the viewing experience and allows single males as well as family groups to see each other, interact with each other, or be isolated from each other. Two outdoor habitats provide a natural setting for the animals; one habitat is observed from a tree-top researcher’s camp structure and the other habitat is viewed with pygmy hippos in the foreground. A discovery trail traverses a hillside providing interpretive exhibits as well as exciting views of the gorillas and hippos from a forest setting. The themed animal sanctuary concept includes holding and viewing structures for both gorillas and pygmy hippos, underwater viewing of the hippos, a restroom building and a gift shop.

Harold C. Schott Education Center

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio


Provide a new education center to house the education staff, zoo program classes, public school academy students, and support space for outreach animal programs.


A lively, sustainable world for learning and playing that integrates animals, plants, children and educators.

CLR planned and designed an innovative, state-of-the-art education facility that combines traditional classroom learning labs with an untraditional living laboratory — a tropical forest conservatory with treehouse classrooms, animal exhibits, and botanical displays. The facility is also a community showcase containing the Cincinnati Public School's Zoo Academy and a 250-seat auditorium used for public lectures, presentations, and after-hours events. This dynamic facility exemplifies the Zoo's "walking the talk" of their core mission of education and conservation. Sustainably-designed, the project looked intensively at reducing consumption and creating a light "ecological footprint.” One of the prominent "green design" features is a large, roof-mounted solar panel array capable of handling up to 15% of the building’s electrical needs. The Education Center was awarded LEED Silver certification.

Northern Trail

Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington


Create a best-in-class immersive Taiga/Tundra flora and fauna exhibit experience showcasing the grizzly bear.


Collaborating with an in-house zoo naturalist, a comprehensive team of clients and exceptional construction craftspeople, CLR created a habitat immersion and realism exhibit like no other.

The award-winning Northern Trail exhibit is an extraordinary six-acre setting for the display and management of ten central Alaskan animal species. The exhibit is designed to permit visitors to witness natural animal behaviors, such as brown bears plunging for trout in a meltwater stream inches from view. These animals are viewed within the context of their natural habitat, reproduced through the careful selection of plant species representative of the region. Northern Trail also features the Taiga Interpretive Center that is nested under the exhibit and entered through a simulated avalanche landscape, and the Tundra Center which resembles a sod-covered native Alaskan lodge and features a 70-foot curved mural depicting four seasons of the tundra.

Range of the Jaguar

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida


Create a Central and South American exhibit sequence anchored by a superb collection of jaguars.


A diversified indoor/outdoor ecological and cultural transect through the Americas that highlights jaguars and features a revenue-generating village hub.

This four-acre, Central and South American exhibit includes a wide variety of species from the jaguar's natural habitat throughout the Americas. A large breeding collection of jaguars is seen in two natural habitats, one of which has an underwater viewing pool. A pre-Columbian temple ruin creates the habitats’ backdrop and provides an air-conditioned setting to view the wide diversity of smaller reptilian and amphibian life from the neo-tropics. Giant anteater, capybara, tapirs and four species of monkeys can be viewed in two rotation exhibits. A large walk-through aviary, the Emerald Forest, provides an immersive experience to view birds, small primates, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Harpy eagles, king vultures and giant river otters are viewed in their own habitats within the aviary. Themed Spanish Colonial café/bistro, gift shop and restroom buildings complete this exciting addition to the Jacksonville Zoo.

Rocky Shores

Utah's Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City, Utah


Create a state-of-the-art conservation breeding facility for endangered North American species of the wild.


Rocky Shores showcases the Grizzly Bear as the flagship species in the complex landscape of the North American Northwest region. Also featured are other Northwest coast species such as seal, sea lion, river otter and eagle. Ethology, the scientific study of animal behavior in a natural environment, was used as a basis for design and management of the exhibit. The animals’ spaces, which meet all current AZA and USDA animal standards, have been layered for richness and the ability for the animals and Zoo staff to alter the spaces over time for variability. Multiple view vantages, underwater and overland, were created for visitors to observe the animal activity within the habitats. Demonstration spaces for staff interaction with the animals showcases animal behaviors while in close proximity to visitors.

The Birdhouse at Riverbanks

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Columbia, South Carolina


Replace a prominent and beloved bird collection and penguin display with exhibits that can handle the Zoo’s increasing attendance.


Emphasize quality, not quantity, by designing a ”knock your socks off” penguin exhibit and brightly day–lit, highly realistic indoor bird exhibits.

CLR designed this lushly planted, sky-lit gem box as an engaging, naturalistic and interactive showcase to replace the highly popular “Birdhouse” at Riverbanks. The new entry plaza features lemurs and flamingos. Exhibits include African and rockhopper penguins in a naturalistic recreation of the skeletal coast of southern Africa with underwater viewing and wave machine. Asian tropical exhibits are accented with lush plantings, Asian-themed hut structures housing keeper service, water courses, murals and an artificial hornbill nesting tree. The public spaces also feature Conservation Crossroads, an interactive themed Asian village with interpretive kiosks and a donor machine that contributes to Zoo conservation projects. A themed safari tent transports visitors to another interpretive viewing area at the African and South American Savanna exhibits complete with all the furnishings needed for a day or night on the Savanna.

Tiger Forest

Zoo Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee


Reinvigorate the zoo with an engaging Asian Trek highlighting Malayan Tigers


Bolsters guests' experiences, improve circulation throughout the Zoo, and feature Malayan Tigers and White Naped Crane (with plans for Gibbon and Langur habitats in development).

As visitors enter the plaza, they catch glimpses of the Cranes gliding in and out of the bamboo thicket. A bridge provides unobstructed views over the pond into the crane habitat. Further along the path, guests come across the first of two expansive tiger habitats. In the north habitat guests view tigers roaming around and on top of an overgrown temple ruin with swimming and wading pools. With various activity-based poles and lures the north habitat allows for plenty of climbing and stalking opportunities. The south habitat is more a naturalistic landscape on a sloped site with lush plantings and a limestone outcropping that creates pools with waterfalls for the tigers to explore. Opened in spring of 2017, The Boyd Family Asian Trek includes a tiger holding and viewing pavilion with an outdoor yard and training areas, visitor viewing shelters, a crane holding building and increased accessible parking at the Zoo entry.

Tundra Trek

Toronto Zoo, Scarborough, Ontario


Design a state-of-the-art home for the existing polar bears and the many tundra and taiga species currently exhibited in a different portion of the zoo.


The native 23-acre taiga landscape was utilized creating panorama vistas to view the wolf and bear habitats.
Tundra Trek brings together polar bear, Arctic wolf, Arctic fox, snowy owl and reindeer into a dynamic exhibit representative of the Canadian tundra. The project, 8.5-acres in total, includes a 28,300SF polar bear exhibit expansion, and a new state-of-the-art holding and breeding facility for up to six bears. The Arctic wolf exhibit, at almost 43,000SF, is one of the largest of its kind and integrates a sophisticated management system to handle the complexities of a large wolf pack. The exhibit entry hub and Tembo Terrace restaurant overlooks the wolves and immerses visitors in an interactive arctic journey that includes a full-sized whale skeleton, an underwater viewing experience that simulates the frozen arctic waters, a tundra wildflower walk, and a fox tunnel maze for kids.