Impala Cafe at the Philadelphia Zoo
Located in front of the Rare Animal Conservation Center occupying a prominent place along the Philadelphia Zoo’s main entry path, Impala Cafe is a grab-and-go food venue offering coffee, cold drinks, and snacks. The cafe forms a backdrop for Impala Plaza, an expansive open area used for informal zoo activities ranging from jugglers and face painting to special events.
The EIFS façade system on the 1987 Impala Cafe was deteriorating and prone to water infiltration. Missing pieces of EIFS and dated canopies gave the building a tired look. Given the cafe’s prominent location and aging condition, the zoo engaged BKP to perform an exterior refresh.
BKP took advantage of the opportunity both to reclad the building for long-term durability and to introduce scale and monumentality to such a prominent location. The design coexists with the plaza, fountain, and new Zoo360 elevated animal trail structures that circumnavigate the zoo, while supporting the zoo’s mission of animal welfare and sustainability.
The BKP solution stripped the façade to its structural steel, installed a weather barrier, and enclosed the building with a terra cotta rain screen and glazed aluminum curtain walls. The new skin follows the original curve of the cafe but is placed approximately 18-20 inches in front of the original façade, exposing the structural steel columns and beams previously buried within the wall. Façade components are organized so that the curtain wall spans two stories vertically in both directions, flanking the central entrance. The pattern of curtain wall and terra cotta panels recalls grand buildings surrounding European plazas.
New sloped wood-slat awnings accentuate the terra cotta façade while offering shade to window service customers. The shades were developed and slats positioned to have maximum shading effect on the harsh midday to late afternoon sun. BKP chose galvanized steel and natural red cedar for visual compatibility with the Zoo360 trail structures.
The renovation included all new doors plus new counters and windows for the walk-up service vendors. Much of the new glass is etched with an abstract grass pattern to complement the Serengeti habitat of creatures depicted on the adjacent Impala Fountain and Impala Lawn. The etching deters birds from flying into the glass, supporting the zoo’s commitment to make its buildings bird-friendly.