For many of us, zoos are a depressing experience featuring tiny, dirty cages, concrete floors, and sad animals. Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his team at BIG were commissioned by the Givskud Zoo to change that. This is what they delivered.
The concept, whose first stage will be realized by 2019, reminds of a safari brought to the city. The zoo is designed to mimic the natural habitat of the animals as closely as possible, hiding the buildings in the landscape. While the animals roam “free”, it is the human spectators that are “captive”, watching unobtrusively from under or above ground, from behind bamboo screens, or enclosed in little mirrored pods.
Architects’ greatest and most important task is to design man-made ecosystems – to ensure that our cities and buildings suit the way we want to live. [...] It is our dream – with Givskud – to create the best possible and freest possible environment for the animals’ lives and relationships with each other and visitors.
Zootopia will take you on a journey through three continents (or routes), all starting from an enclosed main square, whose walls provide an overview over the entire park. From the main square you can choose to fly over America, hike through Africa or sail across Asia. There is also a 4 km (2.5 mile) long hike around all of the continents. The homes of the animals will have the qualities from their original surroundings. For example, the elephant house could be a small hill of rice fields.
To claim that any kind of zoo can provide an equivalent of the animals’ natural habitat would be naïve. Still, if we, as a society, are not ready to get rid of the entire concept of a zoo, we do need more of the kind of thinking that Bjarke and his team bring to the table.
Watch Bjarke Ingels's fascinating TEDx talk on how to make sustainable life more fun than “normal” life and see more of his innovative projects.
Images courtesy of BIG.