Few people fly out of Eisenhower Airport more than Craig Rhodes, lead zoo designer for GLMV. The architectural firm has offices in Wichita, Kansas City and Houston, and 25 unique clients in 20 states. He's often on an airplane or about to catch one. "I know every airport in the country," he says, but notes that Eisenhower is his favorite. He also knows every zoo. When it comes to designing immersive exhibits, Rhodes is the man.
There's the Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, for example. It puts elephants and visitors in the water — together. "Never been done before," Rhodes points out. There's also the Pride of the Plains, which can put you so face-to-face with a lion that it's startling. "Holy cow," as Rhodes describes the experience, "what is keeping that guy in there and how am I safe?"
"What we're trying to do is create environments where people are in awe of nature's beauty around them," he says. "Most of us can't go to Africa or go to South America or go to Asia and see these animals. If we can foster stewardship at home for animals, we feel that we can build a great empathy towards the natural world in general."
Good zoo design, he says, is the kind you don't notice.
"When we've really done our job, you're paying attention to the animals. You're not paying attention to the design," he says. "That's really key. One of the things we really believe in around here is to minimize the built environment as much as we can."
When we've really done our job, you're paying attention to the animals. You're not paying attention to the design.
The largest zoo in the world is in a small town, Asheboro, North Carolina (fly into Greensboro, N.C.). "It's a very naturalistic zoo," says Rhodes, where "conservation of the species is first and foremost." It's spread out over 2,200 acres of hilly terrain. GLMV is at work now planning new features, like zip lines, rope courses and hiking trails to make the experience even more of an adventure. Meanwhile, tigers roam nearly free on acres of wild.
"It's one of my favorite small zoos," says Rhodes. "It's a great zoo, great people and a great community." The zoo, in Naples, Fla., took a hit during Hurricane Irma and lost a few trees and two African antelope, but all the alligators have been accounted for.
There is more to the Valley of the Sun than golf courses and day spas. It's beautiful by night, too. To view the desert stars from a rooftop lounge while sipping a prickly pear margarita is the sort of one-of-a-kind experience you're looking for in a vacation destination. You'll find that in Phoenix, if you know where to look.
The thing about Greater Phoenix — the metroplex includes the cities of Scottsdale and Mesa — is that it is sprawling, suburban, and seemingly only wild around the edges. It's hard to pin down what the place is about. That's what makes it a unique and interesting travel destination. It offers a little bit of everything.
You've got your metropolitan nightlife and culture, including world-class dining and museums. But you can also go lowbrow and get a taco on the street, then maybe slip down to student-filled Tempe for a few cervezas where the bars are less posh but more lively. In the morning, you can act your age and replenish with a mud mask at one of the spas or hit the links in Scottsdale.
Winter is the best time to go when the heat is mild and pleasant. Take a group tour, rent a helicopter or mule, or just hoof it on your own through the Sonoran Desert to take in the otherworldly landscape. There's no other place on the planet like the Desert Southwest. The cactus is as advertised, but Phoenix will surprise you.
It's recognized internationally for the quality of its collection of art and artifacts that tell the story of the Native Americans of the Southwest.
You've seen his take on prairie architecture, now see the desert home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright. It's an eye-opening example of organic architecture, seemingly built into the landscape.
From the howl of Jimi Hendrix's Stratocaster, to the Hawaiian ukulele, to the plunking thumb pianos of Uganda, if it makes a musical sound, you'll hear it at this museum. Headphones provided.
See the towering cacti, alluring succulents and brilliant wildflowers of the Sonoran Desert. It's where the wild things grow (but are easily seen from the walking trails).
It's an easy hike up a mountain that is right in the middle of the Phoenix Valley. You'll get some outdoor exercise and a great view in every direction.
Take in the beauty of a Sonoran sunrise and the disappearing desert below from a hot air balloon. The morning tours offer breathtaking views, cooler temps and high adventure.
Winter and spring are the best times to visit Phoenix. The weather is perfect. Have a look at these temps. Nice, right? You don't want to see the summer numbers.
|Editor||Valerie Wise, Wichita Airport Authority|
|Creative Agency||Greteman Group|
|Creative Director||Sonia Greteman|
|Art Director||Meghan Smith|
|Contributing Writer||Barry Owens|
|Photography||Craig Rhodes, Adam Snyder, John Slankas, Tim Menzies,Eric Kilby, Charles Barilleaux, Andrew Horne, Kevin Spencer, Gary Brownell|
Eisenhower Air is published for the traveling public by the Wichita Airport Authority. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please direct them to Valerie Wise at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage you to share articles through social media and email. Help us spread the word about the good things happening at our airport.
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