John Ball Zoo Bissell Tree House

Project Details


John Ball Zoo


Grand Rapids, MI


4,800 square feet


$12,000,000 including funicular



The unique, award-winning Tree House at John Ball Zoo provides meeting, educational, and event space. It hovers in the trees to create a surprise as it is viewed from the funicular path. Cantilevered decks extend into the trees to provide an immersive experience. An adjacent funicular provides access to the high point of the zoo property. The site was planned in a natural open area to minimize the removal of existing trees to connect participants to nature. It is positioned to embrace never-seen-before views of the city and zoo and to provide excellent solar orientation for passive collection. The design incorporates roof water run-off cisterns to collect rain water for use in water closet flushing as well as educational dialogue.


Strategically utilize unique portions of Zoo property and create a new destination for the Zoo that also serves as a long-term revenue generator.


The Tree House had reservations for events one year in advance before it even opened.
“The success of the Tree House has exceeded our expectations.” - Brenda Stringer, Executive Director American Institute of Architects Michigan Honor Award, 2013