Van H. Gilbert Architect Awarded Project at the Honolulu Zoo

Nationally Recognized Designers of Zoos and Aquariums Commence Work on Reptile and Amphibian Habitats

Aug 21, 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico — Van H. Gilbert Architect PC has begun working with the Honolulu Zoo to refine the scope for the redesign of the reptile house and outdoor exhibits. Habitats to be addressed in the design include both the cool side of the Reptile House that houses amphibians — salamanders, frogs, toads and axolotyls  — and the warm side housing specialized reptiles.  Outer areas include covered exhibits for small lizards and skinks, various species of monitors and iguanas as well as turtle ponds and exhibits.

We have gotten to know the representatives from the Honolulu Zoo through our mutual participation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and have been impressed with their commitment to providing quality habitats for their animals and meaningful experiences for their guests, “ said Van Gilbert FAIA. “Working with the Zoo on the reptile house and outdoor exhibits is a wonderful opportunity to develop improved habitats for their diverse collection.” 

As we approached our reptile habitat project we were looking for a professional design firm that truly understands zoos and aquariums,” said Dr. Baird Fleming, Assistant Zoo Director. “In Van Gilbert and his team we have a partner who understands our stewardship mission and shares our passion for the animals.

The Honolulu Zoo originated as a grant of royal lands to the people by King David Kalakaua, Monarch of Hawai‘i, in 1876. Since that time the parkland grant has expanded and matured, officially becoming the Honolulu Zoo in 1947. Today’s modern zoo organizes all exhibits into three ecological zones: the African Savanna, Asian and American Tropical Forest and the Pacific Islands. The zoo is home to a number of critically endangered reptile species such as the axolotyl, the gharial, the gidgee skink, the ploughshare, radiated and red-footed tortoises and the northern river terrapin.

Van H. Gilbert Architect established their zoo and aquarium practice working with the Albuquerque Biological Park, where they have completed multiple exhibits.  They have also provided design for exhibits at the Tulsa Zoo (Oklahoma), The El Paso Zoo (Texas) and are currently working with the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. In 2010, in partnership with San Diego Zoo Global, Van Gilbert sponsored and led “Imagine Zoos and Aquariums 2030” a conference which addressed emerging trends —global connectivity, robotics, nanotechnology, and  environmental and energy issues — and their impact over the next 30 years.  This initiative launched a nation-wide movement that continues today with Van Gilbert and his team’s involvement.  

About Van H. Gilbert Architect PC (

Founded in 1976, Van H. Gilbert Architect PC (VHGA) is one of the region's leading architectural practices with an award-winning portfolio of academic, cultural and zoological projects.  The firm provides planning, design, and interior design services with a focus on environmental sustainability


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