McNair Asian Elephant Exhibit

May 2017   Houston, TX

Client

  • Houston Zoo

Team

  • House Partners, LLC

The exhibit features a boardwalk that offers an unobstructed view of the elephants’ 130,000-gallon pool and expanded yard, while offering guests fun but safe ways of engaging with the elephants.

Key Points

Plant Selection

The planting plan required careful consideration of plant selection to ensure that the plants would not harm the elephants if digested.

Visitor Experience

A boardwalk designed with grade separation and a vegetated buffer zone keep the zoo visitors at a safe and respectable distance from the elephants' habitat.

Animal Engagement

The design provides a new standard of engaging with the animals, allowing an unobstructed view of the elephants interacting with their environment.


The expansion of the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat features new habitat and housing area for the Zoo’s three bull elephants, Thailand (Thai), Tucker, and Baylor. Asakura Robinson provided landscape architecture for the expansion of the habitat area, which features a boardwalk that offers an unobstructed view of the elephants’ 130,000-gallon pool and expanded yard.

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The design offers a unique experience that allows visitors to interact with the elephants in a playful and engaging environment. Wrapping around the perimeter of the exhibit, a pedestrian boardwalk provides up-close views of the elephants from playing in the swimming pool to interacting with large tree-like structures that encourage the elephants to problem-solve by blowing into different holes in the tree for a surprise treat. The planting plan required careful consideration of plant selection to ensure that the plants would not harm the elephants if digested.

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Houston Bike Plan March 2017   Houston, TX