A New Playground for San Francisco Zoo: Design Phase

We are pleased to announce that we are hard at work building a brand new Nature Play Area at the San Francisco Zoo!  As part of the design process, we were commissioned to construct a scale model of the proposed project, which has several distinct sections, each geared towards different age groups and representing different environments from our planet’s diverse ecosystem.

whole model overview

The central feature is the Tropical Banyan Tree Exploration, a play structure for children ages 5-12.  The tree’s main trunk serves as the central structure for climbing, and has multilevel decks that lead out to the slide platforms and other play components that extend outward on the tree’s horizontal branches.  The Polar Adventure, geared towards children in the 2-5 year range, consists of four iceberg structures, each with different play elements; slides, climbing walls, cubbies and tunnels will all be sculpted into the surface of the structures.  For the littlest humans, we’ve designed the Riverside Play area, where real tree stumps will be carved into small scale climbers, and children can play on the toddler-sized swings or in the sandbox.

tree b:e

The Banyan structure boasts 3 different levels and more than 15 play components, most of which are accessible to people of all abilities.  From the main tree trunk drop 3 different slides, and each of the extended air roots contains its own set of play elements.

tree c:u swings

Several types of monkey bars, a track slide and balance beam, a fire pole and 3 hanging nets, a hammock and two different types of hanging bridges, as well as a raised walkway and observation platform are suspended from the horizontal branches.  The interior of the tree has a tunnel system, and a small secret room sits just inside the air root climbing wall on the exterior of the tree.

tree c-u curl slide crop

The Polar Adventure integrates climbing and other play elements such as built-in concrete slides and rope nets, and the bergs’ dynamic forms allow for exploration and adventure play, as children can navigate crevasses, ice caves, and rope bridges from one piece to the next.


iceburgs scene

icebergs and swings

The Riverside Play area is designed to entertain children from infancy to toddler age.  Large redwood burls will be carved into complex climbing structures with slides, stairs and tunnels.  Infant-scale swings and beaver shaped rockers will provide the little ones with kinetic excitement, and there is plenty of room for parents to take a load off while they watch their young ones.

riverside overview

riverside play w tree b:g

riverside closeup

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