A Cage-Free Zoo That Helps Hide the Humans From the Animals

Slate’s design blog.
July 31 2014 12:10 PM

A Cage-Free Zoo That Helps Hide the Humans From the Animals

140731_EYE_Zootopia
Designed by Danish architecture firm BIG, the Givskud Zoo renovations will be a cross between a traditional zoo and a safari called Zootopia.

Rendering courtesy of BIG

The concept of a zoo will always feel fundamentally unjust. Poor design only highlights the caged aspect that makes it so uncomfortable for kept animals to bear the ever-present human gaze from the other side of the partition.

But ArchDaily reports that Danish architecture firm BIG has come up with Zootopia, an innovative plan to reimagine the 1960s-era Givskud Zoo in Denmark that would create a cage-free, design-forward layout for captive animals and the humans who love to gawk at them.

140731_EYE_1
An aerial perspective of the zoo, which will be divided into three sections.

Rendering courtesy of BIG

The architects have proposed concealing buildings for ticket sales, shops, restaurants, and other visitor needs. They will remove unsightly cages and partitions and allow animals to roam more freely in an open-plan environment that is a seamless landscape of savannas, rivers, and forests. Organized by Africa, America, and Asia, the zoo redesign will have contained, elevated viewing areas for humans, giving the creatures more space to roam in atmospheres more akin to their native habitats than a traditional zoo.

140731_EYE_2
Humans will be able to observe the animals without getting right in their faces.

Rendering courtesy of BIG

Advertisement

“Architects’ greatest and most important task is to design man-made ecosystems,” the designers write in a project statement, “to ensure that our cities and buildings suit the way we want to live. We must make sure that our cities offer a generous framework for different people—from different backgrounds, economy, gender, culture, education and age—so they can live together in harmony while taking into account individual needs as well as the common good. Nowhere is this challenge more acrimonious than in a zoo.”

140731_EYE_3
A central courtyard for the humans.

Rendering courtesy of BIG

Details for the 300-acre site, whose first phase is expected to be completed in 2019, are still being fine-tuned, but the designers have come up with a number of ingenious ways to hide humans from the animals, using mirrors to deflect their presence and allowing visitors to glimpse the captive wildlife on a hiking trail around the complex or by bike, boat, or from above.

140731_EYE_4
One way to navigate the zoo will be by bike.

Rendering courtesy of BIG

Shelter for the animals will be tailor-made to mimic their natural surroundings, with bamboo cottages for the pandas, a hill of rice fields for the elephants, stacked lumber huts for the bears, rock enclosures for the penguins, a lion hill, and savanna enclosures for zebras and giraffes.

“It is our dream ... to create the best possible and freest possible environment for the animals’ lives and relationships with each other and visitors,” the architects write. “To create a framework for such diverse users and residents such as gorillas, wolves, bears, lions and elephants is an extremely complex task.”

140731_EYE_5
BIG's Zootopia project imagines animals and humans peacefully co-existing in a design-forward space that looks nothing like a regular zoo.

Courtesy of BIG

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Television

See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 10:44 AM Bull---- Market America is overlooking a plentiful renewable resource: animal manure.
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 10:48 AM One of Last Year’s Best Animated Shorts Is Finally Online for Free
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.