The events last week that led to the killing of the gorilla Harambe, begs the question of whether it is even ethical to keep animals in captivity; that is, should we do away with zoos? Certainly, there is the argument for the educational role of zoos, as well as the function they serve for conservation. The question is how well are they doing either? There is no doubt, some zoos, at least in America are better than others. The Cincinnati Zoo would certainly be considered a good zoo, one that attempted to create the best possible, most natural, most comfortable enclosure for Harambe – however, it may have been this high quality enclosure that led to the tragedy.
If we insist on keeping animals enclosed, than there has to be a better way to do it. And there is….
Danish architects BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) have just released designs for a zoo in Givskud, Denmark, named Zootopia. According to BIG the project is the creation of a space with “the best possible and freest possible environment for the animals’ lives and relationships with each other and visitors.” The the Danish press is calling it “the world’s most advanced zoo.” According to Givskud Zoo’s director Richard Østerballe, the park’s transformation will be characterized by the integration of nature and natural elements into cutting-edge, innovative architecture.
The design is organized as three separate loops of sinuous geometry, and each representing a different region of the world (asia, africa, the americas). This trio of diverse experiences surrounds a circular central plaza, which is bordered by an elevated walkway. the scheme seeks to provide the freest possible environment for the facility’s creatures, and their relationship to each other and human visitors.
The project will attempt to “integrate and hide buildings” within the landscape. Upon entering the zoo, visitors can either enter a large central square or climb the “building-landscape,” allowing them to get a general overview of the layout of the park. From this central element, visitors can access different areas of the zoo. A 4km hiking trail connects the different areas (which represent the continents of Africa, America and Asia).
The great part about this design is that even as people can walk through tunnels and over walls to see the animals, it is not the animals that are caged, it’s the humans.