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Progressive AE Earns Design Award for John Ball Zoo Tree House |

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Progressive AE Earns Design Award for John Ball Zoo Tree House
Progressive AE Earns Design Award for John Ball Zoo Tree House


Grand Rapids, Mich. – Progressive AE is pleased to announce that the American Institute of Architects Grand Rapids Chapter (AIA GR) recognized the John Ball Zoo Tree House with a 2012 Honor Building Award.

“This was really a team effort,” said Bryan Koehn, AIA, Progressive AE’s Director of Design.  “The leadership at John Ball Zoo had a vision to utilize a whole new area of the Zoo to enhance visitors’ experience, bring more people to the Grand Rapids community, and position the Zoo for sustainable growth.  Our design team had the enviable task of working with them to plan and design that vision.  Not many people get the chance to design a grown-up version of a tree house.”

The tree house is perched in a natural clearing on a hilltop overlooking Grand Rapids and is positioned to embrace never-before-seen views of the city and zoo. Cantilevered decks extend into the trees to provide an immersive experience.  An adjacent funicular provides access to this high point of the zoo property. 

The site was planned in a natural open area to minimize the removal of existing trees and connect participants to nature. The tree house was also designed to be efficient, as it boasts integrated mechanical systems that are hidden between the exterior wall and the concrete floor.

“The success of the Tree House has exceeded our expectations,” said Brenda Stringer, Executive Director of the John Ball Zoological Society.  “We knew it would be beautiful, but we never truly grasped how extraordinarily gorgeous it would be. It is so suited to the site it seems to have grown there.  Everyone who has experienced it has been totally enchanted.  It just flat out takes your breath away.”