Zoo's Elephant Lands is named project of the year

May 6, 2016 - 1:37pm

Visionary home for Asian elephants earns top honors at annual DJC awards banquet

The most ambitious project in Oregon Zoo history may soon need a separate annex to house all its awards.

Elephant Lands, a visionary home for Portland's beloved Asian elephant family, garnered three major honors last night — including Project of the Year — at the Daily Journal of Commerce's annual TopProjects ceremony, held at the Oregon Convention Center.

The DJC TopProjects program, now in its 21st year, honors outstanding building and construction projects in Oregon and Southwest Washington, selected by a panel of industry leaders in architecture, construction and engineering.

Elephant Lands — named Project of the Year among a field of 95 finalists — also earned the top award for public projects and runner-up honors for the program's first-ever People's Choice Award, voted on in real time by event attendees.

"We are deeply honored," said Heidi Rahn, bond program director. "Our community has created something truly special with Elephant Lands. Ever since the birth of Packy, we've had a strong connection with elephants, and now this world-famous elephant family has the world-class home it deserves."

Two and a half years in the making, and four times the size of the zoo's former elephant habitat, Elephant Lands accounts for nearly one-tenth of the zoo's total 64-acre footprint. A bridge leading visitors to the new Forest Hall indoor area offers a sweeping, panoramic view of the entire project: six acres, extending around much of the zoo's eastern side from the central lawn to the veterinary medical center.

"We're very grateful to our partners, who helped make this vision a reality — especially our general contractors Lease Crutcher Lewis, SRG and CLR architects, Equilibrium Engineers, KPFF and PAE consulting engineers, Place Studio and Formations," Rahn said. "Asian elephants are facing extinction in their native lands, and this habitat was designed to inspire generations of zoo visitors to take action on their behalf."

Elephant Lands was the fourth of eight major projects made possible by the community-supported 2008 zoo bond measure promoting animal welfare and sustainability. Private donors also played an important role, providing additional funds to enhance conservation education at the exhibit. The zoo's veterinary medical center — the first of the eight bond projects — was also a TopProjects winner, taking first place honors in 2012 for public buildings in the $5.1 million to $15 million category.