Skip to main content

Ideum enhances San Diego Zoo with exhibits for new buildings

Project will include immersive environments for visitors to discover

Ideum Wildlife Explorers Basecamp

Ideum, an experiential designer of interactive exhibits, has planned and built a range of exhibits for a new area of the Californian attraction.

Scheduled for opening early next year, The Denny Sanford Wildlife Explorers Basecamp is planned to open at San Diego Zoo next year as a dynamic play and learning environment for younger visitors.

Ideum Microscope Station San Diego Zoo
Microscope Stations

Working closely with the attraction and studio Architects HGW, Ideum has developed over twenty exhibits for the Zoo’s new indoor areas.

The firm has designed a variety of interactive experiences, which will feature in the brand-new Herpetology and Ichthyology building (featuring amphibians, fish and reptiles) and the Invertebrate building.

Rebecca Shreckengast, Ideum’s director of creative services says “Ideum is excited to create this next-generation zoo experience with our clients in San Diego. More than presenting species in their habitats, today’s zoos provide hands-on science activities and creative, participatory experiences. In the Herpetology and Invertebrate buildings, visitors get eye-to-eye with stick insects and iguanas behind glass.”

Kinetic energy

As part of the new Herpetology and Ichthyology building, visitors will find themselves under the Living River exhibit, an expansive LED light sculpture that covers the ceiling. The feature is brought to life with a variety of computer-controlled lights with animations bringing kinetic energy to the space.

Along the course of the “river”, explorers will find partially submerged enclosures with crocodiles and fish.

The Ideum team developed a wide range of experiences for the Invertebrate building, including a landmark feature within the domed-ceiling room of the Invertebrate building. The Migration exhibit will project insects above visitors’ heads, flying above a dynamically lit meadow scene stretching around the circumference of the space.

Visitors will be immersed with migrating butterflies, fireflies and other creatures as the dynamic setting transforms from day to night. A carefully integrated sound system and floral aromas will make guests feel like they have shrunk down into the habitat. 

Ideum San Diego Zoo

The area will comprise interactive exhibits such as including the hand-animated Stick Insect exhibit covering two large high-res multitouch displays, with visitors learning how stick insects avoid predators with camouflage. Other exhibits include a timelapse of orb-weaver spiders constructing webs, and a Mole Rat Encounter experience, partially hidden and carefully crafted for younger guests to find.

Ideum San Diego Zoo Stick Insect Exhibit
Stick Insect Exhibit


The building duo will feature unique exhibits fabricated by the Ideum team which has designed multiuser Microscope Stations with interactive touch displays. The software allows exhibition guests to become amateur naturalists by examining objects closer, taking snapshots, adding notes and sharing observations.

Two additional Volunteer Station features have RFID-enabled touch tables, custom-developed for the zoo in Ideum’s fabrication studio.

Schreckengast continues “Multimedia in these environments enhances exploration beyond what can be seen in this way. Visitors zoom in to see a beetle’s wing or a snake’s skin and then create artworks inspired by the unexpected details they discover. They zoom out to observe systems, and, through trial and error, help sustain ecological health for interconnected insects and threatened amphibians.

“Multimedia enlivens context and interactivity supports learning goals around the ecological importance of insects, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The experiences we share help build empathy for these sensitive populations.”

Ideum founder and CEO Jim Spadaccini adds “What a thrill it has been to work with such a fantastic team! It has been great to partner with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Architects HGW. This unique blend of traditional zoological displays and immersive and interactive media is a compelling vision. There’s really no comparative example at any other zoo anywhere. We can’t wait until visitors get a chance to explore.”

The Wildlife Explorers Basecamp project forms one of Ideum’s largest installations to date, with over a dozen new exhibits and the creation of fifty digital species IDs to be installed throughout the two new buildings.

The company has a history of successful partnerships with wildlife attractions, such as Albuquerque BioPark in 2019. Ideum developed interactive digital exhibits for the Penguin Chill habitat, with visits to the attraction increasing by 80% compared to the same period of the year before.

The new Wildlife Explorers Basecamp attraction will feature in the zoo’s mobile app, released earlier this year to enhance guest experience and digitise ticketing for visitors.

Share this
Adam Whittaker blooloop

Adam Whittaker

Adam is Marketing Manager and looks after blooloop’s communications. He studied Marketing and Advertising Management at Leeds Beckett University. An adrenaline junkie, you can usually find him appreciating architecture design, or relaxing at a theme park.

More from this author

Companies featured in this post

More from this author

Related content

Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Find out how to update