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Brookfield Zoo

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Located in suburban Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, the Hamill Family Play Zoo entailed the adaptive reuse of and addition to a classic 1928 structure. As a flagship project for a larger master planning effort for the zoo’s entire children’s area, the building provides year-round hands-on opportunities for children to play with, work with, and care for animals and plants.

In observance of an overall vision for the zoo, the project seeks to engage children with the natural world at an early age, so that the empathy developed early on will result in heightened environmental consciousness later in life. Consequently, a series of spaces dedicated to fostering intimate contact with plants and animals was developed.

The spaces include areas where children can feed and role play with ring-tailed lemurs and lories, including dressing up as their counterparts. A greenhouse area affords an area where children can plant seeds, observe butterflies, help make soil mixes, and create flower art. An animal hospital area allows children to care for pretend zoo creatures, bandaging injuries, and viewing radiographs.

General Contractor: Mcclier
Photography: Steve Hall – Hedrich Blessing