Following his dream
Lukáš describes himself as having “a spirited interest in wildlife” since he was born and grew up running barefoot through the mountainside in Washington state. He was drawn to the wildlife he observed in the forest and even as a toddler would often pick up snakes to surprise his parents. As a family, the Kostkas started learning about snakes and after catching, observing, feeding and then releasing the native ones, they bought Lukáš his first baby ball python when he was in second grade. As Lukáš and his pet collection grew, he continued to learn about their care, and eventually it became his passion to design and build elaborate vivariums for each one.
“I read lots of books, watched lots of videos, studied what I saw in zoos, and implemented my new knowledge into my designs. My corn snake’s home went from being a glass tank with aspen chip bedding and a water dish to a full-blown ecosystem with different substrates, live plants, grass, rocks, caves, and live invertebrate cultures. I put a huge focus on enrichment, too, for instance, snakes love as many different textures to slither against as they can.” — Lukáš Kostka
Lukáš currently has more than a dozen pets, mostly reptiles in custom biospheres. Why so many reptiles? “As I grew up, it was hard to watch my dogs and cats pass away from old age but my little geckos stay alive and well,” comments Lukas. Leopard geckos live 3- 8 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity, depending on the quality of their care. “I have had my leopard gecko for 20 years,” says Lukáš.
In high school, Lukáš explored zoo-related careers like zookeeper, zoo vet, marine biologist, zoologist, but what he loved the most was designing animal environs. Looking for mentorship, he reached out to established zoo designers in the Seattle area and Becca Hansen of Hansen Studio Roberts responded. Becca invited him to shadow her on a current project at the Woodland Park Zoo. “I was sold,” exclaims Lukáš.
Lukáš studied Landscape Architecture at Washington State University, and had internships at the Dallas Zoo, and at Zoo Design Inc. He attended the 2019 World Zoo Conference in Wroclaw Poland. After graduating with his degree in 2020, Lukáš joined Edge Themed Environments creating scale models, animal enrichment items and exhibits for zoos and museums.
Why choose to work at WDM?
WDM Architects is nationally known, with nearly 30 years of experience in the zoo design industry. Currently, WDM’s team is working on several large, complex projects, which is both exciting and simultaneously challenging. As Commercial Members of AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), WDM has hired three zoo designers during 2022 by advertising on AZA’s job boards. In Lukáš’s case, he found the posting, checked out videos of our team online, and felt really good about fitting in at WDM.
As an added bonus, he has been pleasantly surprised by Wichita’s welcoming culture, lack of traffic and affordable cost of living. “If I stayed in the Seattle area, I would not have been even able to afford a studio apartment, but here, I may be able to afford my own home in a year,” says Lukáš.
Lukáš is happy to be at this stage of his career, where he feels his education, internships and hands-on experience have prepared him to take on this challenge at WDM. “It’s all coming together,” he says with a big smile.
Please join us as we welcome Lukáš in his new adventure designing zoos with awesome clients at WDM, where our motto is “we do more.”