Copenhagen Zoo is a typical big city zoo, old style. Originally built in the outskirts of the city, but now relatively close to the city-centre. It is an old zoo that, as most zoos nowadays, has been modernised again and again. Everytime trying to reach state of the art. Good examples thereof are to be seen across the road in the giraffe, antilope enclosure and in the zoo’s newest asset, the new elephant house.
The new elephant house designed by architect Norman Foster, was officially for the first time occupied by the elephants in March 2008. When thinking of a new elephant house the managing director of Copenhagen Zoo wished for a building not being dark but light and absolutely not a dull concrete block . During a visit to London in 2001 the newly designed glass dome of the British museum (by Foster) inspired the director to contact Norman Foster. So, Foster became the zoo’s architect fot the elephant house. And the new building became two self-sustaining glass domes which provided lots of daylight in the stables leaving the visitor areas in relative darkness. The outside enclosure faces the Frederiksberg park and the pool is the sole boundary between zoo and park at this spot.
But why so ambitous? (source Copenhagen Zoo website): “Many safari parks built simple barns for the elephants, and of course the Zoo could have done that too. However, the Zoo is not a safari park with sufficient space to hide primitive and simple buildings from the visitors. Within its limited area the Zoo needs to ensure that the new houses built also constitute an experience to the Zoo visitors without compromising animal welfare and the security of the staff.…. An old, urban zoo is not only working towards nature conservation – the Zoo is also a cultural institution on a par with museums and theatres that provide experiences which also includes recreation and reflection. This is where good architecture plays a role and of which Copenhagen Zoo has a long tradition.…. The Zoo believes that good architecture adds value to the visitors’ experience of the animals, just like the well-designed art museum adds value to the museum’s art collection.….. We are convinced that Norman Foster’s Elephant House will attract focus and add value to the Zoo’s group of Asian elephants, the exhibition and nature conservation.” (see also: The Guardian’s ‘wait till you see our swimming pool!’ and picture gallery)
Copenhagen Zoo is the only zoo outside of Australia that has Tasmanian Devils in captivity.