Dublin-Based Roto Behind Key COSI and Columbus Zoo Attractions
The creative consultant and design firm responsible for exhibits at museums, science centers, aquariums and zoos around the country, including the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, once again has an attraction Columbus residents can experience right here at home.
Founded in 2004, Dublin-based Roto came out of the exhibit department at the Center of Science and Industry during its move to Downtown Columbus. That department, which is responsible for the classic COSI exhibit “Oceans” eventually formed the core team at Roto.
On projects, typically Roto will join early on and assist in the creative and design process, taking a client’s initial ideas for what they want and collaborating on concept, planning, and eventually design building to bring that idea to reality.
In the beginning, Roto’s focus was on other science centers and children’s museums, but eventually their work spread out to projects at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Ohio History Center and the Ohio Statehouse Museum.
On the Ohio History Center’s “Ohio–Champion of Sports” exhibit, Roto Chief Operating Officer Allen Boerger says the project was particularly fun for the firm.
“That was a really exciting project for us because it was all focused on sports as it related to the state of Ohio,” Boerger says. “It wasn’t only about the nuts and bolts of the history, but it really connected on an emotional level.”
Over the past decade, Roto has had a partnership with Dublin City Schools to bring student groups in to tour their facility, get an idea of the company’s idea process and interact with people who aren’t that much older than them, doing the kind of work they may be learning about in the classroom.
The partnership with DCS is two-fold, as Roto will also bring students to their facility to test out experiences and give feedback on designs. Up until the coronavirus pandemic, students would get to preview early projects and assist with prototyping and development.
“Our experiences are often designed for family audiences. It’s an iterative process where you don’t know you got it right until you’ve…put real kids in front of it,” says Boerger. “All kinds of great ideas come out of that.”
Despite Roto’s partnership with the Dublin community, it may be a surprise that the firm doesn’t get to do a ton of projects in Central Ohio. That’s why its recent project with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is so great, says Boerger.
The newly unveiled Adventure Cove region at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is Roto’s latest themed project and also the third project the firm has done with the zoo, including the zoo’s Heart of Africa region in 2014.
Boerger says the firm came into the Adventure Cove project about a year ago to serve as somewhat of a theme and experience designer for the Adventure Cove region.
“This is something that the zoo has been planning for many, many years,” he says. “They already had a lot of great ideas for what they wanted to do. But they brought us in to [help] bring that to life.”
Roto worked with the project’s architect and the zoo to assist with further developing the final design of the public spaces, signage and theming of the animal habitats.
Roto engineered and fabricated much of the project in the workshop at its 60,000-square-foot facility in Dublin. That work was delivered and installed on-site, right in their backyard.
“For our team to actually be able to take their families and go experience this kind of stuff is a real kind of special treat to be able to see that work right in your backyard,” says Boerger. “That whole interaction with the zoo and the collaboration really is something that we’re really, really proud of.”
For more information on Roto, visit roto.com.
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