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WDM Architects
Wichita, Kansas

Dan Wilson, AIA, and Wes Darnell, AIA, founded WDM Architects in 1980. Wilson and Darnell say they are inquisitive thinkers and true collaborators. The firm has 24 professionals who possess a wide range of skills, disciplines and backgrounds. WDM's architects and landscape architects value collaboration and work as a creative team to find the best solutions to clients' landscaping needs, whether a zoo needs more leafy vegetation to expand a gorilla exhibit, or a business office seeks a more inviting courtyard.

Block 1, Wichita, Kan.
The Block 1 pocket park sits in the middle of a block and provides welcome visual relief from the urban intensity around it. Public art displays are integrated into the parking garage walls and a waterfall fountain. An artistically inspired green wall serves as a backdrop to the plant materials in a linear park layout. Custom-designed light pole lanterns and bench platforms are innovative elements to the park. The pocket park is part of the Block 1 Marketplace, a downtown redevelopment project with 8,500 square feet of ground floor retail space and a 260-space parking garage. The area is also home to the Ambassador Hotel, a Marriott boutique hotel, the Kansas Leadership Center and other businesses. The Block 1 Marketplace is described as a place that has sidewalk seating, convenient parking and great downtown walkability.

Riverside Park, Wichita, Kan.
Riverside Park was a bustling place in the early 1900s. But over the years, it lost its luster. Many of the original features were removed or lost to age or fire. A street bisected the park, inviting unwanted activities. In 2005, the community began to restore the site to its former glory. The design included eliminating the bisecting street, providing space for an interactive water fountain, an oval walking path that reflects the original park plan, a central lake, a nature education area and parking area. With this rebirth, Riverside Park once again is teeming with activity.

Entrance at Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix, Ariz.
As a reflection of the nearby sand and stone formations such as Camel Back Mountain and Hole in the Rock, the new Phoenix Zoo entry features rammed earth walls. Rammed earth is a construction method that uses hard-packed dirt to create both interior elements and exterior walls of buildings. In most cases, soils like sand, gravel and clay are mixed with a stabilizer like cement or asphalt to help the soils stick together. The building seems to merge seamlessly with the environment, and at the same time, it stands out enough to be recognizable.

Downing Gorilla Forest, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, Kan.
This exhibit represents the Congo Basin and the West African forest, featuring a 32,000 sq. ft. outdoor gorilla yard, a 2,000 sq. ft. indoor exhibit and a 1,400 sq. ft. off-exhibit day room. This facility is one of only a few in the world that house and manage groups of bachelor gorillas. The indoor viewing area offers interactive and interpretive displays. Other species within the Downing Gorilla Forest are DeBrazza and Colobus monkeys, Okapi, Bongo antelope and African flamingos.

Arctic Passage at Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, Wis.
Walking through the Arctic Passage is like taking an excursion into the tundra regions of the far north. For 20 years, WDM has designed exhibits for some of the country's most prestigious zoos. WDM doesn't approach zoo design as a theme park. It tries to re-create authentic environments, so visitors are able to connect with the animals they are viewing. WDM designed this project to bring visitors face-to-face with polar bears, seals, grizzly bears and other wildlife indigenous to the Arctic. Information about current research projects involving the tundra is also passed along to guests.

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October 20, 2019, 5:53 pm PDT

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