The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Education Center

In 2014, the Indianapolis Zoo set out to create a learning center to showcase orangutans' intelligence and connect humans and apes through interactive techniques and cognitive tasks. Weber Group was part of a larger team tasked to design and build the interactive display, along with other key components of the learning center's experience. The end result was a pioneering new facility that is both an engaging guest experience and working research center.

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Nature of the Project

The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is home to one of the largest groups of orangutans in any American zoo, which creates an opportunity to raise awareness for a species on the verge of extinction. Our passion for this project inspired us to create an experience that let visitors truly see what these wonderful creatures are capable of.

No Easy Task

Apes are incredibly intelligent, and historically known for being escape artists, so we had our work cut out for us. We designed a robust interactive exhibit that housed software for researchers to utilize to reward the orangutans, via a treat dispenser. The cross containment studio was made ADA-compliant and allows guests to witness the interaction between orangutan and researcher.

Ape the Ape

We built an interactive learning space for these amazing apes, complete with dimensional graphics, fabric panels, realistic tree sculptures and digital high-pressure laminate signage. In the entryway of the exhibit, we hand-crafted two life-size orangutan sculptures carved from fiberglass and inspired by ancient Balinese wood carvings. Each fiberglass piece is mounted atop an immersive digital high-pressure laminate portal and accompanied by rich information on the species. The male and female orangutan sculptures greet visitors to the Simon Skjodt Center and help tell the story of the groundbreaking care and environment the orangutans enjoy in Indianapolis.