After putting ripples in the Chicago skyline with its award-winning Aqua Tower in 2008, architectural firm Studio Gang added one more curve to the city this spring with a pavilion at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Part of the studio’s $6 million renovation of the Zoo’s South Pond, the pavilion is built of prefabricated wooden planks milled into parabolas and joined together at their ends, creating a loosely woven pattern that arcs from one edge of the boardwalk over to the other.
Translucent half-pods are set into the negative spaces created by the frame, giving the pavilion the feeling—fittingly, for an aquatic habitat in a zoo—of a tortoise shell. They also provide shelter from the elements, turning the pavilion into a popular space for community meetings, classes, and recreational activities like yoga.
The pavilion sits on a boardwalk encircling the four-acre pond, which Studio Gang converted from a shallow, manmade pool fed by city tap water into a natural, self-cleaning habitat that doubles as an educational exhibit. Especially at night, with floodlights illuminating it from below, the pavilion beckons pedestrians from across the pond, drawing them along the boardwalk and through its arc.