An office building in the Bronx Zoo seems as natural to the site as the surrounding parkland and accommodates multiple programs with minimal resources. Staring out the window is part of the job description.
Employees on their lunch break at the Center for Global Conservation (CGC) recently paused to observe wild turkeys roaming in front of the building. In the northwest corner of the Bronx Zoo’s 265 acres of New York City parkland, this display isn’t a rare occurrence. Nor is the sight of Inca terns swooping in the seabird aviary across from the CGC headquarters. Muskrats and goldfinches visit, too. Perhaps these creatures continue to treat the turf as their own because the rectangular, elongated three-story building — which achieved LEED Gold Certification in 2009 — seems as natural to the site as the two rock outcroppings it bridges.
The CGC, designed by FXFOWLE, houses several Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) programs. WCS operates the largest network of wildlife parks in the world, including the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Prospect Park Zoo, and operates over 500 conservation programs in more than 65 countries. Until the new headquarters was completed in 2009, WCS employees were scattered in buildings across the Bronx Zoo. FXFOWLE, which had previously renovated the zoo’s Lion House in 2008, consolidated various programs with diverse needs at an unused edge of the park. After looking at various configurations, the firm designed the building to intrude as little as possible on the landscape, even inflecting it to save two trees. WCS employees now benefit from chance encounters. “It’s really changed our relationship. Proximity is everything,” says Susan Chin, vice president of planning and design and chief architect for WCS.