Landscape Architecture
and Planning

ABQ BioPark Penguin Chill Art Wall

for the City of Albuquerque

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Completed: 2019

The abstract design is inspired by the Ushuaia Coast of Argentina, home to large penguin colonies.

The art wall at the Penguin Chill exhibit at the Albuquerque BioPark is a three-dimensional mural that draws visitors to the exhibit. The abstract design is inspired by the Ushuaia Coast of Argentina, home to large penguin colonies. The piece is constructed of colorful steel panels that evoke the forms of the mountains and coast. Cable mesh provides a framework for inscribed donor tags that wiggle in the breeze like penguins waddling on the coast.   

The bright colors of the piece balance the grey tones of the architecture, incorporating the striking colors of Ushuaia. Visible from far off, the mural draws visitor’s attention to the exhibit’s entry. The design is a truer representation of the penguin’s natural habitat, not the typical imagery of a penguin on icebergs. This concept reinforces the messaging of the exhibit and surrounding landscape to inform visitors about the actual home of the various species. 

The landscape architects were commissioned by the BioPark Society to design the mural and work with a local fabricator through fabrication and installation. The process required careful design and planning to fit the structure around the curved façade of the building. The plans included details of each piece so they could be accurately cut and fit together in the fabrication shop. The team also paid close attention to disguising the fabrication hardware and structure of the mural so they wouldn’t distract from the visitor experience.   

This work is an unusual project for a landscape architect but demonstrates the creativity and ability of the profession to help clients realize their vision. The art wall has become an iconic Instagram moment as visitors wait to enter the exhibit. It has set a new precedent for the Zoo to combine art, architecture, and landscape in ways that replicate natural habitats. The animals will always take center stage, but the exhibits themselves are an import part of creating a unique visitor experience.