Enhancing Animal Welfare, Conservation Education, and Sustainable Infrastructure

Elephant Lands Exhibit and Plaza Building

Oregon Zoo / Metro

A design collaboration with CLR, the new Elephant Lands Exhibit provides a habitat to fit the unique needs of the resident Asian elephant herd. The space nurtures their intelligence and instincts while also fostering curiosity and activity, all while focusing on sustainability.


8.5 acres


Portland, OR

Year Complete


Project Tags

Mass Timber

2017 Top Honors, Exhibits Category — Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Elephant Lands is the largest project the Oregon Zoo has ever developed and part of the $125 million dollar bond measure approved by voters in 2008 to enhance animal welfare, conservation education, and sustainable infrastructure. The exhibit enhances the health and well-being of the elephants by encouraging activities and offering choices similar to what they would experience in their natural environment.

The habitat includes a new elephant barn, exhibit hall, Elephant Plaza Building, and indoor habitat as well as four outside habitat areas with multiple viewing platforms. The new indoor exhibit facility, Forest Hall, incorporated a state-of-the-art heating and ventilation system and is one of the largest indoor elephant facilities in the world at nearly 33,000 square feet and 43 feet tall at its highest point.

In addition to Elephant Lands, the $57 million project included the construction of a service access road with approximately 800 lineal feet of soldier pile walls along the southern and eastern zoo boundary, replacement of an aging campus-wide infrastructure system, rerouting of the Zoo train loop and relocation of the Zoo’s Wildlife Live headquarters.

The outdoor areas of the elephant habitat include multiple water features, a 160,000-gallon pool, numerous timed feeding-stations, and mud wallows providing ample space for the elephants to move about freely. From the very beginning, the emphasis of design was focused on activity and choice for the elephants—allowing the herd to choose how they spend their time.