The Monument: Constructing Ivan piece by piece

Ivan and a magnolia blossom

Ivan’s first day at Zoo Atlanta. Courtesy of the Tacoma News Tribune.
Photograph by Dean Koephler

Inspired by the affection the Tacoma community felt for Ivan the Gorilla®, the Friends of Ivan sought to honor his life and legacy. The “Beloved Ivan” project was successful in funding, creating, and installing a life-size bronze monument of Ivan at the entrance to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA.

The sculpture by Douglas Granum, proudly standing at more than  6 feet tall, welcomes over 600,000 annual visitors to the zoo. Display materials tell Ivan’s story and provide information about the Western Lowland Gorilla's habitat and threatened existence. Fund-raising included foundation and corporate grants, gifts from individuals, and crowdfunding online.


Light green paint underline

Ivan may have been one of the most photographed gorillas during his lifetime. His pose for the statue was derived from a photograph by Dean Koepfler as part of a featured article in The Tacoma News Tribune that had celebrated the new chapter in Ivan’s life. The photo was taken at the moment when Ivan first touched a Magnolia blossom on the first day in his new outdoor enclosure at Zoo Atlanta.

Ivan the Gorilla: Piece by Piece

The Monument to honor the life of Ivan stands outside the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Tacoma, WA

Using innovative 3D Computer-Aided Design & Manufacturing technology from Form 3D in Portland, OR, artist Douglas Granum was able to accurately portray the complex details of Ivan’s face, his size, and his body. The CAD modeled Ivan was then broken into multiple pieces and printed separately by a large 3D printer more commonly used to produce automobiles or planes.

Each piece of the model was soaked in a Paraffin wax bath to preserve the intricate details that could be lost in the casting process. The pieces were transported to 2 Ravens Studio in Tacoma, WA to be forever cast in bronze. Ivan’s sculpture weighed approximately 600 lbs & 6 feet tall.

The project took 2 yrs from the first concept in 2014 to final creation in 2016 while the assembly from 3D resin printed parts took 4 months from April 2016 to July 2016.

Seattle Times, Ivan the Gorilla: Piece by Piece

Ivan Piece by Piece courtesy of
Seattle Times photograph by Alan Berner

The Ivan sculpture, a first of its kind cast exclusively using 3D printed resin parts.


Ivan’s legacy teaches us about the personal connection which can occur between humans and gorillas. The hope is to continue increasing awareness and to inspire action to preserve the habitat for Western Lowland Gorillas in the Congo, Africa.

If you have a story you’d like to share about your experience with Ivan, we encourage you to share your “Ivan story” with us.