Toledo Zoo & Aquarium Malawi Event Center

Toledo, Ohio

The Malawi Event Center at the Toledo Zoo was a unique project. The design team transformed the existing Nairobi Pavilion, a pre-engineered metal outdoor structure with canvas tent sidewalls and a rustic feel not unlike that of the safari-laden landscape of Nairobi, Kenya, into a truly unique, year-round, climate-controlled event and meeting venue renamed on behalf of the venue’s outstanding focal point: a 74-foot long African Cichlid Aquarium, reminiscent of Lake Malawi in the southeastern region of Africa. This renovation was part of the Africa Exhibit revitalization and achieved the primary goal of creating one of the largest enclosed, yet flexible, event spaces in Toledo, Ohio.

The project is located in the middle of the Africa Exhibit on the north side of the zoo, and definitely presented some challenges throughout design and construction. Situated between the carousal, polar bear exhibit, adjacent functioning train service tracks, and guest overlook areas, design and construction crews got their fair share of sights, sounds, and experiences while on site! The aquarium component for the project provided the most unusual constraints and opportunity for the design team due to the logistics of designing and installing the required life support systems, foundations, and fiberglass/acrylic tank within the catering facility. Budget constraints required the project to reuse the building structure and roof, prompting the design team to investigate and design adequate building envelope systems that would meet current codes. Some additional design considerations were the delicate design opportunities around the existing structure with new EIFS facade, acoustical floating ceiling panels and operable walls.

The end product provided the Toledo Zoo with a versatile floor plan that could be divided into three smaller spaces or opened for one large event. The overall interior of the space boasts elegantly designed interiors, complete audio/visual capabilities, and full catering abilities to accommodate gatherings large and small for donor and membership events, galas and cocktail receptions, corporate events, conferences, high school proms and dances, community gatherings, meetings, and weddings, as well as catered lunches, education programs, and health care screenings for over 2,500 seniors who attend annually, adding yet another resource and asset to the community.

 

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