Structural Engineers and Building Envelope Consultants


Herb Alpert Educational Village

James Turrell at the Guggenheim

Microsoft Store Times Square


Umbilic Torus

New World Symphony

University of Rochester

West 23rd Street Triplex



© Copyright Gilsanz Murray Steficek 2012
News 15

Slade Architecture:  Staten Island Zoo

James Slade, AIA, LEED AP, and Hayes Slade, AIA, cite their work at the Staten Island Zoo (out to bid at this writing, with no opening date fixed) as the kind of contract that would rarely be available to a small firm.  The client is the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), but the site is on Parks Department land.  Budget cuts and political negotiations trimmed a more ambitious master plan, including a new entrance building and a farmstead educating urban children about rural ecosystems, to two new components: a leopard exhibition and a carousel enclosure.  Working on this eight-acre zoo, renowned for niches like its reptile collection (and a charismatic groundhog that once bit Major Bloomberg), gave the Slades some education about a different ecosystem: city-government processes.

Placing the carousel centrally near the dining facilities and giving its enclosure glass doors and an ETFE roof lowers sound nuisances to neighbors and creates a bright, open area where adults can dine while watching their children ride.

DDC has been instrumental, Hayes notes, in getting these design solutions approved.  Along with guidance on time-consuming documentation, the Slades add, working with the agency generates internal benefits for a small firm that extend beyond the immediate project and offset the tight fee structure.  Submitting drawings to DDC strengthens a firm’s ability to produce deliverables required by complicated organizations.  Future clients view the city’s vetting as a sign of a firm’s credibility, and DDC’s online Design Consultant Guide is, in Hayes’s words, “the closest thing you’ll ever see to a manual on how to do the optimal project.”

“Each agency involved,” says James Slade, is “trying to do what’s best for the city as a whole, but coming at it from different views.” Parks emphasizes tree preservation and grounds maintenance; zoo officials are concerned with visitors’ experience, animals’ well-being, and relations with adjoining resident; DCA strives to spread resources evenly among multiple competing constituencies. DDC acts as orchestrator and assists with documentation.

The Slades strove to maintain a band of trees surrounding the zoo, but a leopard enclosure normally needs below-grade walls to keep the cats from digging out.  Foundation excavation, Hayes notes, is often “basically a slow way to kill trees.”  To preserve the roots, they chose a horizontal subterranean mesh digging barrier instead of the customary leopard-proof concrete.  A foundation system using football-shaped diamond piers and steel poles driven in a cone formation saves materials and is less invasive to the landscape.

Bill Millard is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Oculus, Architect, Icon, Content, The Architect’s Newspaper, LEAF Review, and other publications.

PROJECT:  Staten Island Zoo
CLIENT:  Staten Island Zoo
Slade Architecture
Gilsanz Murray Steficek

Slade Architecture:  The Carousel at Staten Island Zoo is being relocated from the periphery to a more central location near the dining facilities, and being refitted with glass doors and an ETFE roof to lower sound nuisances to neighbors.

March 14, 2012
Public Projects, Small Firms, Targeted Tactics

Having replaced fee-based bidding with quality-based prequalification, the city’s Department of Design + Construction has been matching talented smaller firms with appropriate projects.
The result is civic construction with grandeur, greenness, and verve    

Spring 2012

*Reprinted from the Spring 2012 edition of Oculus Magazine, Volume 74, Issue 1