Seals and sea lions stretch their fins in their new habitat at Washington National Zoo.

New at the Zoo

As of September 1, a trip to the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC is no longer complete without a stop at the state-of-the-art Seal and Sea Lion Exhibit. Designed by Quinn Evans  Architects and built by Forrester Construction Company, the exhibit is part of the zoo’s American Trail. The habitat mimics the North Pacific Coast shoreline with simulated tide pools, wave machines and faux rock work that was created using cutting-edge techniques for forming and placing concrete. Spread over two acres, the $31 million Seal and Sea Lion Exhibit is big enough to accommodate both species with separate pools for each. An adjoining four-story structure houses a complex marine life support system that treats local water, adding minerals and salt to replicate sea water. It’s also home to the habitat’s care-taking and maintenance operations. Visitors can choose above- or below-water vantage points from which to observe the exhibit’s four California sea lions and two harbor and four gray seals in action. An amphitheater provides a venue for demonstrations. 


ARCHITECTURE: Quinn Evans Architects, Washington, DC. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: IAN McDONALD, senior project manager; TOM PHELPS, lead superintendent, Forrester Construction Company, Rockville, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY: FREDDE LIEBERMAN.