Zootopia Design without Cages Aims to Enhance Animals’ Quality of Life

Zootopia Design without Cages Aims to Enhance Animals’ Quality of Life
Arts & Culture

Visitors will be able to sail, hike, cycle, drive and even fly through the Danish zoo which is being developed by BIG Architects

Vashti Hallissey
  • 5 august 2014

The concept of keeping animals in zoos for our entertainment and education is becoming increasingly controversial as documentaries such as Blackfish and campaigns to free individual animals hit the headlines. This feeling is summed up in a recent article in New York Magazine that declared, “we are reaching the end of the era of the modern urban zoo”.

However, despite this sentiment, millions of people visit city zoos every year and it’s unlikely that the desire to see wild animals face-to-face will completely fade away. But many are seeking a more humane environment, which allows creatures to behave as if they were in the wild instead of being trapped in cages.

Zootopia by BIG Architects aims to offer this solution, with a new type of zoo that it is being developed in Denmark. The Givskud Zoo, which opened in 1969, is being completed transformed by the world-renowned Danish architects.


“It is our dream- with Givskud – to create the best possible and freest possible environment for the animals’ lives and relationships with each other and visitors”, the BIG website states.

BIG Architects envision Zootopia as an environment that will improve conditions for animals and inspire new ways for people to live together. The website continues:

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 knows perhaps a rhino can teach us something about how we live – or could live in the future?

The design consists of three loops, each of which represents a particular region, Asia, Africa and America. There is pedestrianized central square, which connects all three.


Visitors will be able to explore Zootopia in many ways, flying across America by cable car, biking or hiking across Africa and boating across Asia. It will be possible to travel around the perimeter by car or even to hike across all three regions on a 4km route.

The project website describes the planned architecture:

Instead of copying the architecture from the various continents by doing vernacular architecture, we propose to integrate and hide the buildings as much as possible in the landscape. We would like to build homes for the animals that are both tailor-made especially for them and at the same time have the qualities from their original surroundings.

The first phase of Zootopia is set to open in 2019, which will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the park.


The Zootopia concept seems like a much more humane home for animals than the standard urban zoo. It is an animal-orientated design that provides creatures with expansive areas to roam and, most importantly, it is free of the cages and glass partitions usually typical of zoos.

[h/t] designboom, ArchDaily

Images: designboom


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