Design Stories 1.01


Serendipity can be as lovely in design as in life.

Designing the new entry for the Como Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, MN, we sited the building with southern glass for plant displays and a northern heavy limestone wall to compliment the existing original WPA zoo quarters.

Early in the 20th century exterior reflecting pools at the Como Park Conservatory contained enormous Amazonian water lilies called Victorian Water Platters. These were an annual summertime attraction. There was a desire to resurrect that tradition. The new entry design integrated reflecting pools along the east and south facing glass facades. These function as passive cooling elements for the greenhouses in summertime and serendipitously provide a nurturing environment for the water platters that now again grace the grounds in the summer.

The stone walls of the entry building consist of long, thin slabs of dry stacked limestone which matches, generally, the color of the limestone of the existing WPA buildings. Selecting the stone, we toured a southern MN quarry and found large refuse areas where stone with color variation and texture was rejected--ground into gravel for landscape projects since architects typically prefer uniform texture and color. The rejected stone was filled with wonderful fossils of shells, creatures and colorful plants, perfect for our zoological building. The rich color variations of pink and violet bands came from fossilized lily beds compressed into the limestone.

We happily accepted the rejected stone. So the Como entry has living lily pads and animals housed in walls created from their ancient ancestors.

Serendipity is indeed lovely.



  • Flowers by Como Stone wall
  • Old Como Building
  • Como Stone wall with glass tower
  • Victorian water lillies at Como
  • Como Stone wall up close
  • Como Stone Wall up very close
  • More water lillies at Como
  • Como Stone wall with imperfecctions up very very close
  • More Imperfections in stone
  • View from underneith a water lilly looking up