Designed and constructed by students at the University of Kansas School of Architecture, this structure acts as a gateway entrance to a prairie on the site of the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center in Topeka, Kansas. The design of the structure stems from the Kansas state bird, the Western Meadowlark, as well as other pollinator species native to Kansas prairies. The incorporation of these elements offers the children visiting the museum a chance to learn about the various pollinators that exist within the prairie. Furthermore, to withstand prescribed burns of the prairie, the entirety of the structure is composed of steel. To ensure this pavilion would remain at the museum for many years to come, the steel structure was specified to be hot-dip galvanized.
This project stands as an important component of a children’s museum, therefore protecting the steel from corrosion in the reach of children was a major safety priority. In addition, galvanizing allows for maximizing structural longevity for future generations to enjoy. This leads to less maintenance during the lifespan of the project. The hot-dip galvanizing finish compliments the lighter aesthetic of the prairie landscape as opposed to the darker finish of an ungalvanized structure.
Compared to alternative coating methods, galvanizing is the best option for addressing the requirements of the Pollinator Pavilion. Hot-dip galvanizing adds a thicker layer of zinc compared to other metallic finishes such as electroplating. This is a necessary step for the outdoor setting as a protective measure against the elements. However, there were challenges that came with galvanizing this project. The largest piece of the structure is composed of welded connections, forming one continuous piece that was much taller than the zinc kettle at the galvanizing plant in Kansas City. This posed the challenge of needing to progressively dip this piece to be sufficiently coated, adding extra steps to the process, and requiring extra attention to detail. Fortunately, the crew at the galvanizing plant were able to help the students achieve optimum coverage of their project.
The result of the hot-dip galvanizing process of the Pollinator Pavilion offers an interactive and educational experience in an environment that caters to the imagination and curiosity of children. By resisting corrosion, the structure will not only be considered safe for the visitors of the museum, but it will also remain present for future generations. Despite the challenges that arose during the process, hot-dip galvanizing proved to be a necessary factor of the project that promises safety and longevity.