St. Louis Zoo’s Primate Canopy Trails Exhibit

The new $13,000,000 Saint Louis Zoo’s Primate Canopy Trails exhibit allows guests to become fully immersed amongst the treetop habitats of various small primates. The flexible 35,000 sq. ft. outdoor exhibit space connects to the Zoo’s Historic Primate House and is now home to several lemurs, callitrichids, spider monkeys, and more.

Zoo Exhibit Design for an Elevated Experience

Guests enter the exhibit space under a fallen buttress tree that provides an impressive entry portal. Once inside, guests can view habitats to the left, right, and even overhead through multiple view windows. The interwoven over/under nature of this unique exhibit is enhanced through the use of primate transfer tunnels that interconnect exhibit spaces above guest walking paths. Likewise, an elevated boardwalk allows Zoo visitors to view the primates in their environment within the upper tree branching. Another highlight of the exhibit includes a children’s climbing structure. Children can experience the life of a lemur as they climb their way to the top.

To deliver this immersive Zoo habitat experience, the project team concealed various architectural structures by using thematic finishes. Shotcrete decorative rockwork and simulated earth bank textures were used to conceal necessary concrete structures, ensuring guest views are encompassed by organic structures. Additional enhancements include tree stumps and artificial trees within the exhibits. These elements were created as enrichment features that encourage climbing and exploration by the primate inhabitants. A donor wall also was constructed in faux finishes through a stone face plaster process.

COST was hired by Saint Louis-based General Contractor-Construction Manager Tarlton Corporation for shop drawings, structural engineering, scale models, theme asset fabrication, and on-site construction of the simulated rockwork, faux trees, stumps, and stone face plaster. The relationship between COST and the Saint Louis Zoo dates back to the 1960s.

Photo courtesy of Tarlton Corporation

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