An overhead image of the Gateway to Asia exhibit at the Calgary zoo, featuring artificial trees, logs, and rockwork throughout the habitat.

Calgary Zoo Gateway to Asia Exhibit

Gateway to Asia opened to the public in June of 2021. After successfully completing Panda Passage in this building several years ago, COST was contacted to assist the Calgary Zoo in renovating the exhibit to meet the needs of new inhabitants, two white-handed gibbons, and a Malayan tapir.

Planned Changes to Gateway to Asia Exhibit

Project designers, Jones and Jones, developed a plan to modify the exhibit space and integrate a slightly larger pool along with five large simulated trees for climbing. The trees included anchor points for vines so the gibbons could climb within and between the trees. To deliver enrichment opportunities for the animals, COST worked closely with the design team to develop “treat” areas for the gibbons.

The remainder of the habitat would stay mostly unchanged but still benefit from the aesthetic waterfalls, rock formations, and ponds developed for Panda Passage.

COST’s Role in the Revamp

Prior to fabricating the trees, bark samples and scale models were completed and approved by the project team. The submitted samples were molded from actual green ash tree bark. Due to a short fabrication window, the trees’ structural steel systems were fabricated immediately after the model and sample approvals. Once the steel systems were completed for each tree, the steel was clad with an FRP and epoxy skin to deliver the realism of a natural tree. Various topical paint coats were applied to resemble natural green ash trees. Because the trees were too large to be set as one piece, each was designed in multiple sections to be disassembled and then erected on-site. The tree bases were set on concrete foundations and once all the trees were installed, vines were connected to each branch anchor point.

COST was hired by the Calgary Zoo to create shop drawings, build scale models, fabricate samples, and construct five simulated green ash trees. The PCL Calgary team was responsible for all the local site work, including setting up and erecting the trees. Ryan Kuntz, PCL Manager of Special Projects, states, “We always enjoy working with COST of Canada Contractors ULC. They are a top-caliber theming company, and their level of detail is unrivaled. We always look forward to reimagining spaces at the Calgary Zoo with COST.” Seattle-based Jones and Jones Architects designed the exhibit.

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Photos courtesy of PCL Calgary