Phoenix Zoo's Administration and Volunteer Office Building
Zoo Facilities

Phoenix Zoo Administration and Volunteer Offices

A World Class Zoo for a World Class City

In 2008, the Phoenix Zoo partnered with WDM to develop a comprehensive master plan spanning multiple phases. Because the zoo relies entirely on private donations for its funding, they initiated a capital campaign aimed at realizing their vision of establishing a “World Class Zoo for a World Class City.” This successful $23 million campaign provided the funding for numerous projects, including the administrative complex, which was completed during the initial phase of the plan.

The previous zoo administration building had been demolished after becoming structurally unsound, causing staff and administrators to be scattered throughout the campus, and some were moved off-campus.

The new complex completed in 2015 gives staff vital collaborative space through an open office design with administrative offices, meeting rooms, a board room and an expansive shared deck. This stunning structure provides a single, central home for zoo staff to facilitate mission-critical day-to-day operations.
Additionally, the Zoo sorely needed a comfortable and efficient space to train and equip the self-less individuals who donate thousands of hours each year to the Zoo’s programs and services. The new Administration complex’s Volunteer space demonstrates the Zoo’s gratitude for the services of its volunteer force and encourages community involvement with the zoo.

But beyond the much-needed functional space, the Phoenix Zoo Administration complex stands as a statement about the zoo’s mission and values by being designed and built certified LEED Gold. As a highly visible showcase piece near the entrance of the zoo, it emphasizes that sustainable and beautiful can be synonymous.

Challenges of the Site

To meet the required size, the new Administration and Volunteer complex had to be quite spacious. The logical choice was to locate it near the zoo’s entrance for the sake of convenience and visibility. Nevertheless, this site presented a challenge as it consisted of both a lake and an abandoned fish hatchery.

Before this site became the Phoenix Zoo in 1962, the historic Hunt Fish Hatchery occupied the same area in Papago Park. The WPA-funded hatchery was comprised of eight man-made lakes, cement rearing-tanks and other structures. The lake was also connected to other lakes and ties into a larger waterway system. So the abandoned hatchery site raised not only environmental challenges but also concerns about historic preservation.*

Matt Schindler, Principal at WDM Architects, invited Kevin Weight, Preservation Planner for the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office to meet with him at the zoo to discuss the project and evaluate existing structures and their historic significance. Weight was pleased to be consulted early in the project planning and determined the removal of the structures would be appropriate after proper documentation.

Meeting the Challenge

To address environmental concerns for the lake and waterway system, Schindler designed the complex on stilts with an elevated deck above the lake’s surface. Only four of the 50 support pilings impact the lake leaving the natural habitat largely untouched where plant and animal life continue to thrive.


Landscape Architecture

The Administration and Volunteer Complex features striking rammed earth walls and sustainably harvested tigerwood decking that create horizontal lines. These lines are accentuated by the vertical exposed steel beams and are crowned by the roof’s extensive overhangs.

From a landscape architecture perspective, this project represents a harmonious fusion of various elements. Native desert plants complement the natural stone-filled Corten gabion baskets that encircle the custom paver design. This design pays tribute to the property’s historical use as a fish hatchery, infusing the landscape with a rich sense of heritage and natural beauty.

The Administration Building is entered by a courtyard designed with a custom paver design that pays tribute to the property's historical use as a fish hatchery
PHX Admin Vestibule 1660×1800
Reception desk at entry

Interior Design Features

The interior design is characterized by distinct color choices to create varying atmospheres. In the staff and volunteer areas, vibrant pops of color stand out against the white millwork, generating an exciting and energizing environment. Conversely, in the executive area, the colors are subdued to establish a serene ambiance. What unifies these spaces is the presence of rammed earth exterior walls running through them, seamlessly connecting the interior with the natural surroundings.

Sustainable Design Features

The administration complex for the Phoenix Zoo embodies a remarkable commitment to sustainable design and environmental stewardship. This visionary project not only serves as a functional administrative hub but also stands as a testament to the Zoo’s dedication to conservation and responsible building practices. The three separate buildings housing administrative offices, volunteer training, and staffing not only accommodates operational needs but also provides a delightful outdoor courtyard for employee gatherings, enhancing the working environment, fostering a sense of community, and promoting the overall well-being of the staff.
Recycled Steel: Extensive use of recycled steel minimizes the project’s environmental impact and aligns with the Zoo’s conservation mission.

Recycled Steel

Extensive use of recycled steel minimizes the project’s environmental impact and aligns with the Zoo’s conservation mission.

Rammed Earth Walls

Environmentally sensitive rammed-earth walls offer excellent insulation and reduce the need for energy-intensive manufacturing. This showcases a commitment to energy efficiency and local materials.

Energy-efficient Glass

Energy-efficient glass provides natural light, reducing artificial lighting and energy usage while regulating temperatures.

Material Selection

Low VOC materials ensure a healthy indoor environment, and FSC-certified materials demonstrate responsible forestry practices.

Solar Panels

Solar panels reduce the complex’s carbon footprint, symbolizing the Zoo’s dedication to clean energy.

LEED Gold Certification

In a world where conventional office complexes are the norm, WDM Architects recognized the importance of this project as an opportunity to showcase sustainable practices to the community. The Phoenix Zoo’s commitment to sustainability is not just a buzzword; it’s a tangible demonstration of innovation and conservation.
By choosing to build this complex with recycled materials, energy-efficient technologies, and renewable energy sources, the Phoenix Zoo leads by example, setting a high standard for sustainable design and environmental responsibility in our community.

The project has achieved a LEED Gold Certification by the US Green Building Council, recognizing environmental sustainability.

Phoenix Administration and Volunteer Offices floor plan

Measure of Success

The Phoenix Zoo Administration Complex achieves several important goals. Firstly, it brings administrative offices together in a space designed for seamless collaboration and efficiency. Additionally, it provides volunteers with a pleasant facility for meetings and training. Above all, it serves as a symbol of unity and appreciation, reinforcing the zoo’s core mission of conservation.

“What I most appreciate about WDM is that they are extremely responsive, genuinely creative and are always looking out for the client.” states Bert Castro, President and CEO of the Arizona Cenmter for Nature Conservation. “In the end, what’s important to WDM is that they have exceeded our expectations.”

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Project Overview


455 N. Galvin Parkway Phoenix. AZ 85008


28,000 s.f.



WDM Services

Architecture Interior Design Landscape Architecture


Matt Schindler, AIA

Landscape Architect

Andrew Jordan, RLA

Interior Designer

Angi Womeldorff, IIDA, NCIDQ


2016 Excellence in Architecture from the AIA LEED Gold Certification from USGBC