• Danielle Pardo Rabani

The ZOO of the Future

Updated: Apr 19

About three weeks ago, shortly before we heard the optimistic news of the Corona vaccinations arriving, the Israeli government announced the re-opening of the zoos to the public. The ensuing pleasure and excitement reminded me of when I participated in a Japanese competition whose theme was: “A Conceptual Breakthrough in Zoo Design”. Architects from many countries were invited to present their ideas for designing an innovative “out of the box” zoo. Departing from the traditional perceptions and creating a totally new experience of how to visit a zoo. I designed an innovative solution together with fellow architects Avital Sharf Tsabari and Kobi Levy. The competition was held in Japan in 2007.

The inspiration for the architectural design we presented came from caterpillars that can “glide” through and adapt to diverse topographic conditions. We were looking for a way to avoid depriving animals of their freedom, while, on the other hand, allowing them to be viewed without interfering with their natural lifestyle. It was clear to us that watching animals in their natural habitat contributes towards cultivating environmental awareness and sustainability – not to mention the sheer pleasure it provides, particularly to children. We were looking for ways to safely bring zoo visitors as close as possible to the animals, enabling them to see every detail of the living environment and lifestyle of the animals.

We opted for open living spaces for the animals – as opposed to any form of cages. Human visitors would be able to move from area to area, hiking along a unique network of protected paths above and below ground and even underwater. These protected trail ways are covered with a transparent cocoon through which the animals can be seen close-up in their variety of natural habitats, whether day or night.

These futuristic (and very safe) cocoon like trail ways pass fairly high above the living areas of the animals, preventing any interference with their free roaming in the field. In water areas, the trail way passes both above - for waterfowl watching - and also underwater for looking at fish and sea-mammals practically face-to-face. And in specially designated areas, the protected trail ways “shed their shells” (so to speak ..), permitting visitors to exit to petting corners where tame, friendly animals await their next human encounter.