CLR Design

Evolutionary Thinking in Habitats


Rooted in Tradition. Propelled by Vision.

A move east by Jon Coe in the early eighties, with his coaxing of Gary Lee to join him, led to the two men working out of Jon’s garage just outside Philadelphia. This was the humble – yet spirited -- beginning of the firm, then known as Coe & Lee. A decade later, architect John Rodgers merged his firm with Coe & Lee and CLR Design was born.

CLR’s interest in zoo design began well before the firm was established. It was 1966, when Jon had just completed his thesis at Harvard, and was visiting Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo. That’s where he observed three chained elephants fighting with each other. Jon asked a nearby keeper, “Why are the elephants fighting with each other?” The keeper replied, “Because they are chained up.” Jon continued, “Well, why are they chained up?” The keeper retorted, “Because they are fighting with each other.

Thus began the emergence of zoo exhibit design based on the integration of animal behavior and well being with a focus on ecology and habitat landscape design.

The focus never changed, but the office space in Philadelphia sure did! From Jon’s garage to a Chinatown office complete with the aroma of sautéed garlic, to an old shoe factory in Old City, to North Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts, and now to the historic Gimbel’s Department Store — a renovated 10,000 SF, sun-filled and LEED Gold-certified space. Along the way, CLR has been instrumental in many of the trends and innovations of zoo design that have occurred over the last 30 years. We have integrated architects, landscape architects and exhibit designers into a practice that focuses on zoos and animal conservation organizations. Our legacy speaks for itself in the many awards and popular exhibits we have created over that time throughout North America.

Today we continue that legacy with innovation and new thinking. The principals, Greg, Jón, and Mark, combine their next gen experience and evolutionary thinking along with Gary Lee – who treks about the office half of the year, and cruises the globe
the rest.