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The Indianapolis Zoo’s Bicentennial Pavilion and Promenade is modeled after a lush rainforest

The 40,000-sf space can support a wide variety of group activities.

October 23, 2017 |

Photo: Susan Fleck

The Bicentennial Pavilion and Promenade at the Indianapolis Zoo provides 40,000 sf of weather-protected space for up to 1,000 seated guests. The open-air special events facility can host concerts, picnics, and private events. The Zoo’s newest bird exhibition, Magnificent Macaws, is also located under the new pavilion and includes a custom-designed stage and perch.

The pavilion was inspired by a lush rainforest and comprises eleven 35-foot-tall steel tree-like “pods” created mainly from natural materials. Each pod consists of 63 individual wood beams that range from 83 feet long and 19,000 pounds to three feet long and 25 pounds. Sunlight can filter through to the ground level via translucent roofing materials. The “forest” of pods is held together with 6,424 bolts and lag screws. A hearth of roughback quarry block limestone serves as a visual centerpiece and provides warmth during colder weather.


The limestone hearth in the Indianapolis Zoo's new pavilionPhoto: Susan Fleck.


Rainwater is collected 100% on-site and percolates into an aquifer. When rainwater contacts the Pavilion’s canopy, it is funneled into the pods, down their rain screens created from custom-designed weathered steel, to a sunken, plant-filled bed. From there, the water travels through a water quality unit and into a 14-foot-deep water detention bed of free draining stones, designed to accommodate 100-year flood events. Each bed contains plants that can thrive in saturated environments with water intake pipes that are raised above grade to encourage natural percolation through the soil.


The transparent roof of the pavilionPhoto: Susan Fleck.


The Bicentennial Pavilion and Promenade was designed by RATIO Architects and used a $10 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.


The pods that make up the Indianapolis Zoo's new pavilion spacePhoto: Susan Fleck.


The Bicentennial Pavilion and PromenadePhoto: Susan Fleck.

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