San Diego Zoo Store


Esherick Homsey Dodge & Davis, Schwartz Architects

Practice Area


The Zoological Society of San Diego


Project Vision

This store was planned organically, rather than geometrically, with the goal of placing fixtures in a way that would maximize the ratio of sales area to store circulation. The dark, wood-paneled interiors have been replaced with a new palette of off-white wall surfaces. A floating wood slat ceiling incorporating mechanical and lighting fixtures defines a vast horizontal plane in the major retail spaces. Ceilings under adjacent pitched roofs remain open and their wood structures lit to emphasize their dramatic volumes. A new skylight introduces daylight to the interior and highlights a central bamboo exhibit feature. The original quarry tile floors in both stores and the adjoining arcade are restored and new tiles installed at areas where floor levels are lowered or modified. Bright green stained wood flooring in an elevated area in the children’s store brings the environment motif to the floor plan.

The store’s environmental graphics theme, HABITATS, was a deliberate departure from the expected depiction of animals. The final solution integrates brightly colored photographic duotones of bamboo, grass, trees, and flowers, and provides a strong connection to the living habitats of the zoo’s animals. The bamboo element from the central exhibit feature is reinterpreted on a continuous graphic frieze, rendered in consistent duotones of greenish ocher. Visually, the bank of consistent color ties together widely varied merchandise and departments. Printed messages relating to the zoo’s conservation and sustainability mission are interwoven throughout the frieze and mural elements.


Project Details
The bamboo centerpiece is uplifting. I remembered this image from first sight; it says 'zoo' and ties the shop into a visitor's overall experience. I have never seen a zoo shop that made such a successful connection. Simple and powerful graphics, kept in an understated form through duotones, really lets the products speak for themselves. The bamboo display is a great visual anchor.
Juror 1
Design Team

Marc L’Italien, AIA at EHDD; Fred Schwartz at Schwartz Architects (Principal in Charge), Tomislav Pejic, Marjorie Brownstein, AIA, Ursula Currie, Rick Feldman, Dylan Jhirad at EHDD Architecture; Henry Rollman at Schwartz Architects

Design Firm

Esherick Homsey Dodge & Davis, Schwartz Architects


Gallegos Lighting Design (Lighting), Oppenheim Lewis, Inc. (Cost Estimator), Rutherford & Chekene (Structural), Guttmann & Blaevoet (Mechanical and Plumbing), O’Mahoney & Myer (Electrical)


Melhorn Construction (General Contractor), Rembrandt Graphics, Inc. (Photographic Wall Murals)