It may not come as a surprise to anyone, but “Zoo” and “Zoo Architecture” are two of the most consistently searched terms on Animal Architecture. Well, for the Zoophiles we’re happy to share a very exciting article on the future of Zoo design featured in National Geographic from David Hancocks. Here’s a little snippet:
Zoos need mostly to change their attitude. They are trying to be many things, but they are dancing on an entirely inadequate stage of their own making.
The heart of the zoo problem lies in the fact that their basic assumption is that they put animals on show. This is why, for example, they are paranoid about the animals always being on show: everything they do highlights this assumed need — they put a tiger photo on their adverts, and show a tiger on their brochure, and mark an area on their zoo maps with “tiger,” and put direction signals around the zoo pointing to “tiger,” and put a graphics panel on the path all about tigers, and then they seem surprised and indignant when visitors who are exposed to all this and who don’t then actually see the tiger get upset about that. Instead of rethinking this self created dilemma, zoos respond by making damn certain that their tiger (or gorilla, or elephant, or rhino, or whatever) is not going to get out of view and will be visible to all paying customers at all times.
If zoos started their planning and design processes by asking such questions how they could illustrate and celebrate bio-diversity, or help people understand the interconnectedness of all living things, or demonstrate interdependence, or help people understand how healthy eco-systems operate and are maintained, instead of just asking such simplistic questions as “where shall we build the new bear exhibit?” then we could begin to see some important developments in zoos.
David Hancocks, a zoo historian and zoological park director of 30 years has been a staunch advocate of revolutionizing zoos. He perceives conventional zoos to be “fundamentally unchanged” since the London Zoo at Regents Park opened its doors to the public in 1828.
In 1975, while Director of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, David Hancocks commissioned Jones & Jones to generate a master plan for the zoo. In doing so they reconceptualized much of the zoo’s exhibitry. The landscape architects endeavored to create “landscape immersion exhibits”–a term they coined– and a novel design approach, which ultimately changed the architectural culture of the Woodland Park Zoo.
You can read more on the National Geographic site.