Riding the H-Line
What’s an ape exhibit without cables and platforms on which the primates jump around? Browning Day seized the opportunity to design the International Orangutan Center at the Indianapolis Zoo to turn what would have otherwise been a simple exhibit into an unforgettable experience for future visitors of Azy, Knobi, Nicky, Rocky, Katy and Lucy. Through state-of-the-art exhibits and interactive computer games, zoo patrons will experience an unprecedented level of interaction with one of the planet’s most endangered primates.
The design allows the orangutans to ascend a 75-foot tall climate-controlled interior viewing space, access two outdoor yards, and freely traverse and nest upon an outdoor network of masts, cables and platforms – collectively referred to as the Hutan Trail or “H-Line”. The H-Line serves the dual purpose of providing exercise for the orangutans while providing patrons with interesting and unique ways to observe the animals in action.
An 8,000-square-foot plaza serves the dual purpose of patron seating and orangutan viewing, with additional space for education and kiosk set-up. Since we cannot replicate the native environment of orangutans in Indiana, the planting design endeavored to create a landscape reflective of their natural habitat. Grading design in the animal yards introduced a variety of elevations for interest but also flat areas so the orangutans will linger in the yards for patrons to observe. The specifications for the planting soil in these yards were at a higher standard than usually mandated because it had to be free of stones to prevent the orangutans from having objects to throw. To minimize the heat island effect on the plaza, the design leveraged the use of high albedo concrete pavement and ample plant material strategically positioned to provide sun relief and frame certain views of the large glass viewing window that has a southern exposure to the plaza. The main exhibit tower “leans forward” to allow the orangutans to climb above patrons sitting in the lowest parts of the plaza. Mid- and lower-level areas can be accessed via long graceful, arching accessible ramps on either side, designed to convey the image of arms reaching out from the main exhibit building into the landscape.
The Center boasts a 12,000 square foot green roof, testament to Browning Day’s commitment to sustainability. We used sedum on the green roof because of their many advantage; being succulent, they hold moisture, only grow a few inches tall, are beautiful and come in many varieties. The green roof offers many features to the client, not the least of which is storm water sequestration. It is coupled with a 10,000 gallon underground cistern that will hold a very high percentage of the site’s storm water and reuse it for irrigation before tapping into potable water. In addition, the green roof will retain a natural habitat over the site’s footprint, reduce the heat-island effect, protect and extend the life of the roof system, and add a great deal of natural beauty to the site. The diversity of the plants and their changes throughout the seasons will add visual depth and educate the public about the life of natural systems.