The Detroit Zoo is home to 83 penguins, so it’s only fitting its Polk Penguin Conservation Center resemble Antarctica’s icy landscape.
Now open to the public, the facility—which holds more than 1,234,044 L (326,000 gal) of water, including a 7.6-m (25-ft) deep aquarium showcasing four species—welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year as part of the 510-ha (125-acre) zoo.
Sparkling brightly in the sun, the 3066-m2 (33,000-sf) conservation center’s exterior is designed to reflect the aquatic birds’ natural habitat.
“We wanted the exterior of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center to capture the essence of Antarctica—the most otherworldly place on Earth,” said John Hrovat, director of architecture and design for Albert Kahn Associates. “Antarctica has an ever-changing landscape due to the ice and light, and we were determined to have the center reflect this original penguin habitat as closely as possible.”
To create the iceberg exterior, the design team turned to four different types of customized proprietary metal panels, the most prominent being a diamond-shape panel replicating the jutting and jagged edges of Antarctic terrain. The panels are color-matched to mimic a shade of white with a hint of blue that is more visible in Antarctic snow. Further, they feature a pearlescent, color-shifting finish to create the effect of a snowy, icy landscape.
After coil-coated the paneling, the Polk Penguin Conversation Center’s exterior emits a piercing white color. The proprietary coating contains 70 percent polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) resins, which can protect against dirt and staining, as well achieve color consistency and retention. Further, the it features proprietary solar reflective technology, which can offer high resistance to ultraviolet (UV) rays. The solar reflective coating can also help reduce overall energy consumption and keep the interior of the penguin center cool, maintaining an environment closer to the birds’ original habitat.