Danish Architects Reimagine the Zoo

The search for a more ethical wildlife park

Even before Blackfish brought zoo skepticism mainstream last year, the future of all such institutions has been in question. Is there an ethical way to publicly display captive animals? Danish architecture firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) is on a mission to answer that question with a hefty redesign of Denmark’s Givskud Zoo.

Photo courtesy of BIG

Citing in a project statement that good architects must create ecosystems that take into account “individual needs as well as the common good,” BIG concedes that “nowhere is this challenge more acrimonious than in a zoo.” Thus, their recently revealed plans for what has been dubbed “Zootopia” attempt to mesh nature with inventive design in a 1,200,000 square meter park imagined under advisement from the zoo staff. Manmade buildings would hide within the constructed natural environments and animal habitats would mimic ones found in the wild as much as possible.

Renderings showcase a circular central plaza with an ascending ramp-like border where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the entire park, which features varying natural environments (that seem to be fairly open-air) connected by a four-kilometer hiking trail. Boasting the slogan “On Ground, Water Or in the Air,” BIG’s project plan offers visitors a zoo experience by foot, bike, car, boat, or even in the air, in a futuristic, clear pod rigged up to a ski lift-like apparatus, with the animals roaming free.

Photo courtesy of BIG

BIG hopes that the construction of Zootopia will improve both quality of life for the animals and the visitor and keeper experience, but also that it might better inform future projects, stating their interest in discovering “ideas and opportunities that we will be able to transfer back into the urban jungle.” The project is currently in progress, with the first phase set for completion in 2019.