Kansas City Zoo Sobela Aquarium

Unveiling the Depths, Inspiring Conservation

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While many visitors to the new Kansas City Zoo Aquarium have visited the ocean, few will have dipped deep below its surface. This project creates that opportunity for all. To introduce visitors to our global ocean, the project uses the concept of marine currents as an interpretive framework. This storyline presents a diverse aquatic collection in a way that is cohesive and meaningful. It’s a story that relates to the dynamic nature of the habitats it portrays and offers a strong base for the zoo’s conservation and educational programs. The visitor path starts at a shallow tropical shore, follows a warm current into the melting pot of the deep ocean, and is carried via a cold current from the depths, through the ocean's forests, emerging at a cool Pacific coast. Architectural cues such as changing light quality, spatial variation, and physical descent augment unique exhibit designs to engage visitor's emotions, spark their curiosity, and build in them a passion for the ocean. This world-class facility is now home to nearly 8,000 animals in 34 habitats ranging from small tanks to a large, 400,000-gallon shark tank. Despite housing nearly 650,000 gallons of water in total, the aquarium has officially obtained a LEED silver certification. Some of the sustainability goals include capturing stormwater on site, significantly reduce water and energy use, and maximizing natural light while also birdsafing the structure through fritted glass. The aquarium is also the first project in the Kansas City area to utilize Carbon Cure TM to reduce carbon footprint in concrete scope by 22%.
  • 2023
  • Support Architect
  • Kansas City, MO
  • 65,350 SF


  • Friends of the Zoo, Inc

Eldo Team

  • Principal: David Dowell, AIA
  • Project Manager: Steve Salzer, AIA
  • Project Architect: Kyle Schleicher, R.A., Tamra Collins, AIA LEED AP BD+C


  • Lead Architect: EHDD
  • Contractor: J.E. Dunn
  • Structural: Leigh & O’kane
  • MEP: Antella
  • Civil Engineers: SK Design
  • Landscape: Vireo
  • Life Support: TJP
  • Exhibit Design: Spacehaus
  • Exhibit Lighting: Lightchitects Studio
  • AV/Tel: Latimer Sommers
  • Fire Protection: Jayhawk Fire Sprinkler
  • Code Constultant: Code Consulting Services

Photography by:

  • Michael Robinson


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