Alden B. Dow’s Kalamazoo Nature Center Gets a New Dome

After protecting the Sun/Rain Room for nearly six decades, the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s iconic dome and roof are being replaced.  Designed by Alden B. Dow in 1961 and opened to the public in September 1964, the highlight of the Center has been the two-story tall grey Plexiglas dome.  It spans 56 feet in diameter over a display of plants native to the area, a pond, trees, and tons of boulders.  A ramp coiling around the room’s outer edge allows visitors to enjoy the feeling of being close-up to nature.

Over time, however, humidity created by indoor sprinklers used to water the plants took its toll on the roof and plaster, and the large tree at the center of the room had overgrown the space.  On May 5, following extensive research and planning, the existing dome was removed and hoisted in the air by a massive crane.  A short video of the lift-off was taken by videographer/photographer Jim Triezenberg.  The new dome and roof will provide substantial improvements in energy conservation that have been developed since the Center was built.

As described by its manufacturer and installer, Super Sky Products Enterprises, LLC, it’s a multi-slope glass and aluminum self-supporting dome weighing 31,215 pounds – 14,000 pounds for the structural aluminum framing and 17,215 pounds for the 84 glass panels.  It has a diameter of 57 feet and is nearly 16 feet tall.  All panels are clear insulating glass and laminated with a Low-E coating and a 1/8-inch white ceramic dot frit coating on the second surface to diffuse direct sunlight; the frit dots will also make the dome more visible to birds in flight.  All framing, sheet metal, and hardware is finished with a Dove Gray long-life Kynar 500 paint.  The peak of the dome is capped with a 5-foot diameter ventilated/screened/perforated aluminum cap.

The cost of the new dome is approximately $600,000.  It is being constructed on site and photos of the progress are posted on the Center’s website.  


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