Quennell Rothschild & Partners designed the landscape architecture at this LEED Gold adaptive restoration of a 1903 Beaux-Arts building and surroundings at the Bronx Zoo’s Astor Court. The project has brought new life to a complex that had been largely abandoned since the 1970’s, when large cat exhibits were moved to more naturalistic settings. The restoration has transformed the facility into a vital education and event center, as well as a major exhibit of animal species from Madagascar.
Lush plantings and gently-sloping entrance plazas now welcome visitors at the building’s main entrances. The new plaza areas provide universal access while eliminating awkward wheelchair ramps that had obstructed the classical facades since the 1970’s. The west side of the building opens to an outdoor terrace that accommodates outdoor events and receptions. Working closely with preservation consultants, the firm retained sculptural limestone and granite features, while meeting program requirements. A utility vent servicing basement animal care facilities was deftly integrated along the existing balustrade. A shallow planter with an abundance of grass plantings conceals the limestone-clad mass of the vent structure.
The sustainable design strategy limits site disturbance; permanently designates adjacent areas for open space preservation; uses native plants; and minimizes the heat island effect by preserving the mature trees that provide shade over expanses of existing pavement.