Noodle Zoo Spectrum

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Lincoln Park Zoo acts as a new ecological form in the often scraggly, while sleek, city of Chicago. The resulting form stands as a noodled Zoo.

No longer just a regular plot tucked into a small corner of the city, Lincoln Park Zoo now zigzags through neighborhoods, suburban outlets and farmlands further afield. It even extends through the lake. To make this noodled zoo continuous, wildlife overpasses are spliced in.

Inner precincts once barren of biodiversity now teem with exotic species. From living rooms and kitchens, one can spy on the wildlife scampering around in their habitat enclosures. Day and night, the sonic ambience of jungles and savannas mingle with that of the city. Conversation erupts from the geodesic dome, and harbored tropical trees can now burst free, only to be hushed back in during the dull and ramped winter months.

In the summer, the zoo’s small herd of wildebeest undertakes their annual migration, usually doing at least a few, dusty orbits. On rooftop gardens, bleachers are erected for spectators to watch this natural spectacle, NASCAR-style.

While rare, animals do escape from time to time, and when that happens, news helicopters are dispatched immediately to follow the retrieval team. On the ground, reporters shadow their every move like wildlife filmmakers, even emulating the hushed timbre of Sir David Attenborough during their live telecasts. It’s always a top story, even if people aren’t savagely attacked or an outbreak of a virulent disease isn’t imminent.

Zoo design is applied in various types of facilities such as zoological and botanical gardens, museums, rescue and breeding centers, theme parks, dolphinariums, aquariums, wild animal parks, game farms, and even in national parks. These facilities’ purposes vary and their design have used to be recognizably different. However, the driving forces for changes in zoo design lead to similar design requirements across institutions. Sophisticated zoo design depends a lot on the education of zoo staff. Trends are set by institutions which can afford experts on all levels. (ludzo,1)

As shown above:12/30/2009– Several of the king and gentoo penguins at the Saint Louis Zoo’s Penguin & Puffin Coast take a walk outside in the snow. Zoo visitors can see the Penguin Parade.

Technical innovations are leading to new types of animal exhibits. Huge aquarium displays and underwater tunnels are being built now that acrylic panels can be manufactured in almost any form and dimension. Nearly invisible barriers can be created with special netting, tension steel wire and the use of electric fences. Computer modelling allows for the design of huge free form netting for naturalistic animal exhibits.

Per example, the barriers which remain ethereal and blend into the landscape (a piece of re-bar bent and welded to look like a running vine), or a low lying glass panel to obscure the interface to how the visitor and animals interact.

“Green technologies” are also influencing zoo design. In European zoos, technologies for green roofs and insulation are widespread, while water recycling and CO2-neutral heating and cooling are still experimental. In other parts of the world, green technologies are in their infancy or still unknown.

The availability of wild animals is another driving force that will shape future zoos. Only a few thousand of many typical zoo species – such as tigers, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, rhinos – are left in the wild and the number of species at the brink of extinction is rapidly increasing. International regulations such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) make the importation of endangered wild species increasingly difficult. Zoos therefore have started to breed endangered species in an internationally organized effort. (ludzoo)

As an end note, let me mention Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia by Stephen DeStefano:

“In 2006, a coyote named Hal, turned up in Central Park, evading park rangers and the NYPD for two whole days while underscoring the coyote’s increasing prevalence in the population-dense Northeast. As adaptable as they are surreptitious, coyotes particularly love the suburbs, where food is abundant and natural predators rare. For wildlife biologist DeStefano, the coyote is thus an inspirational symbol of nature’s resilience: a wild animal that has learned to thrive amid human sprawl without our consent and in spite of our perennial efforts to banish them from our midst. Narrating the travels of a plucky female coyote, the author explores humans’ evolving relationship with nature and the violence of our light, noise, and traffic. Along the way, he offers us a glimpse at his own restless spirit, born in the Boston suburbs but drawn to the desert Southwest; resentful of human wastefulness yet exhilarated by the open road. DeStefano’s willingness to probe his own ambivalence about the possibilities of coexistence with nature allows this selection to be about much more than just wild canines.”

See articles previously posted by ludzoo



  1. One of the things I wish was included in our education, was being taught by professors of different departments. Landscape Architecture touches on so many types of projects that involve multidisciplinary teams; I think it would be highly beneficial to have worked on a “zoo” project that collaborated with professors and students from the zoology or tourism departments.

    With that out of the way, I’d like to start by commenting on the influences of zoo design. I think it’s interesting how so much effort is put into bringing exotic animals to everyone’s “backyard.” I know it’s important to be worldly and learn about all the “cool” animals, but with the ease of obtaining these species becoming more difficult, wouldn’t it be an interesting shift, if zoos started to show case local ecosystems. Most people don’t know anything about the types of animals or plants that live in their region. If zoos created exhibits that highlighted local plants and animals would that instill a sense of compassion for the nature that surrounds a person’s home, or drive to work. Would it then bring more support to choose parks over parking garages? Or, encourage the public to pressure the industry and demand ecofriendly products, because they’ve grown “attached” to what they are trying to protect. Then when travelling to a faraway city, the zoo would offer something unique and different from the one back home, unlike now where every zoo has the typical popular exhibits (i.e. tigers, penguins, monkeys etc.)

    I’m also very intrigued with the design layout/spatial organization. To me, the zoo then becomes a corridor throughout the city. It exposes more and provides an ease of access. The zoo then essentially acts like a public park, providing an escape from the urban environment.

    You mentioned the spectacle of escaped animals. Have you heard of what the public’s response is to having “dangerous” animals running free through the city? Even if no one gets hurt, to have the potential for dangerous animals to roam through the city, wouldn’t the typical fear enthused citizens have an over the top call for action? A couple months back someone was killed by a bear in Yellowstone Park, and even though it was the people encroaching on the bear’s home, it’s always the animals fault. Just like at Sea World, when the killer whale, wait for it, killed someone the whale was “put down.”

    What are your thoughts? Where do you think the direction of zoo design is headed, with it being more difficult to obtain exotic animals? How do you think the public’s perception of nature and wild animals changes with more exposure/education?

  2. I think for most young people (teens and twenty something’s) their last visit to the Zoo happens around the same time their interest becomes focused on the opposite sex. When people get married and have kid’s of their own, Zoos all of sudden become a must do again. With that being said, Zoos seem to have a focused audience of only children and young families. Innovative Zoo design is important and should draw all age demographics. Now anyone can learn about animals from a plethora of resources, but Zoos were created so that we could experience and see exotic animals in a close and safe proximity. I want to emphasize the fact that exotic animals are the reason why people go to Zoos. It’s not everyday you can get close to a giraffe or lion and the very fact that Zoos give us access to rare animals from around the world is where their value lies. Not putting down the more common species, or species found in our local environment, but that sole reason is why Zoos were created and why they exist today. I agree with Jen that people should learn more about their local environment, and perhaps a small educational exhibit should be integrated in Zoos. I’m sure there are a lot of zoos that have something like this (I wouldn’t really know, because I haven’t been to a zoo since I was in 5th grade) but just my opinion; the local environment should be kept in the local environment. Perhaps it would be better to encourage people to go to their national and state parks where they can learn and experience their local environments outside of a man made exhibit. The focus of Zoos should be and always have been on the exotic animals.

    Now the question should be how to draw young people back to the Zoo? Alex’s article presents great examples of innovative zoo design, but in every picture you see children, and entire exhibits made only for children. Are most Zoos designed with only children in mind? It seems to be that way. Perhaps it’s high time we change our idea about the typical zoo audience. Again, we should start designing Zoos with everyone in mind. Now amusement parks such as Seaworld and Busch Gardens do a good job of this, but I’m talking about your typical city Zoo. How can designers attract young people to the Zoo without the rides and other attractions? Is it even possible? Perhaps amusements are precisely what it would take to attract young people. When you are thirteen, or twenty-three are exotic animals enough anymore? Or perhaps the solution is just simply bringing the Zoo to them, which follows the concept of the noodle design mentioned in Alex’s article.

    This begs another question. How important is it that young people visit the zoo? From a monetary standpoint, very, but unless you are studying zoology, the fact that you know the eating habits of the ape aren’t going to do you much good at your typical 9-5. I can only think of two benefits that young people can gain from going to the Zoo. For starters, Zoos get young people out of the house, but so do parks, and beaches and hundreds of other things. Secondly, they allow you to get close with exotic animals. This is the most important benefit, if you can even call it that. What is the benefit of getting close to a zebra, or chimpanzee? It’s entertaining. So there it is, the common denominator. The only reason why most young people will go to a Zoo is for entertainment. Young people have to decide now, what’s more entertaining, the Zoo or their Facebook?

    Which is an interesting question in itself. Facebook in a way is like a Zoo. Instead of exotic animals, we watch and learn about our friends….and it’s free! Facebook will be the ruin of Zoos! Ok I’ve ranted on long enough.

    To summarize, Zoos were created so we could experience exotic animals at a safe and close proximity, people go for the exotics, the local environment should be experienced in the local environment, young people really don’t benefit from Zoos which probably explains why they don’t go, and- Sorry to cut this summary short, but I have to check my Facebook.

  3. To briefly respond to Jen’s comments: native species can have their place in a zoo, but space and money is limited. We have our local nature preserve and national parks for native ecological systems to admire.

    I believe zoos are have the potential to spring an idea in people’s minds ( whether they be children or not), which would have the same effect as the first picture of the earth, as seen from the moon, in the epic blackness of space. The realization that the planet is fragile is subtly implanted. This can either be refreshed in the minds of the parents when they aren’t too busy chasing the groups of children on their field trips learning more outside of the classroom than they could hope for on the internet.

    On the other hand like Tyler mention zoos are just another spectacle. But I this there is still a huge demand to be able to go and see and elephant. Even more if it is free to do so like here in St. Louis; although, they do charge a city income tax as well as the federal and state tax.

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