Vancouver House architect Bjarke Ingels designing cage-free zoo in Denmark

A Danish architect with a Vancouver connection is turning the traditional zoo on its head. Bjarke Ingels—who has designed local developer Westbank’s soon-to-be-built Vancouver House—has proposed a cage-free zoo where animals roam free and humans observe while in captivity.

“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. 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,” reads a statement on the Bjarke Ingels Groups website. “It is our dream—with Givskud—to create the best possible and freest possible environment for the animals’ lives and relationship with each other and visitors.”

The project is called “Zootopia” and it will be situated at the Givskud Zoo, a 20-kilometre animal park near Vejle, Denmark. The zoo has been open since 1969 and contains more than 700 animals representing over 70 species.

“To create a framework for such diverse users and residents such as gorillas, wolves, bears, lions, and elephants is an extremely complex task,” continues the website statement. “We are pleased to embark on an exciting journey of discovery with the Givskud staff and population of animals—and hope that we could both enhance the quality of life for the animals as well as the keepers and guests—but indeed also to discover ideas and opportunities that we will be able to transfer back into the urban jungle. Who know perhaps a rhino can teach us something about how we live—or could live in the future?”

According to proposal designs on the BIG website, Zootopia will be separated into three continents—Africa, Asia, and America—and each area will attempt to return the animals to their natural landscape. Visitors to the zoo will be able to experience the animals through enclosures that will be hidden within the landscape. For instance, lions will roam free within an area and humans will be able to observe the animals by standing in a small enclosure tucked under a hill. Some of the enclosures, such as ones in the savannah section of the zoo, will be situated underground and require visitors to look up in order to see the animals.

The cage-free zoo is expected to open in 2019. Ingels’ Vancouver design—a spiraling 52-storey condominium located by the north end of the Granville Street Bridge—is scheduled to be completed by 2018. 

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