Page D1.1 . 01 April 2009                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Multi-Elephant Housing by Foster

by Terri Peters

The Copenhagen Zoo's new Elephant House by Foster + Partners emerges gently from the surrounding park grounds, its two leaf-patterned glass domes topping walls of pink-hued concrete. At once playful and serious, transparent and solid, this modern menagerie provides both high-quality living conditions for the animals inside and an exciting and interactive visitor experience.

As they splash in the water and walk around their sandy indoor quarters, the Asian elephants seem to be enjoying their DKK 280 million (about $50 million) new home. That may seem like a lot of money to spend on an animal enclosure, but then, this is no ordinary building — it is the showpiece of Denmark's foremost tourist and cultural institution. The Copenhagen Zoo, located in the historic Fredriksberg Gardens, attracts 1.2 million visitors each year.

The brief for the new facility, which supercedes a much smaller brick structure built in 1914, was driven by the goal of creating quality and design benchmarks for elephant facilities, informed by behavioral research. After the zoo's managing director, Lars Lunding Andersen, visited the British Museum's glass-roofed Great Court by Foster + Partners in 2001, the zoo invited the firm to design the new elephant house as a similarly light-filled space, in stark contrast to the dark, bunkerlike buildings that have so often been built for elephants.   >>>

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Two elliptical, glass-roofed enclosures provide the elephants with a daylit, heated refuge from Copenhagen's cool, wet climate.
Photo: Courtesy Copenhagen Zoo Extra Large Image

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The Elephant House and grounds seamlessly resolve the diverse care needs of captive elephants and the viewing requirements of zoo visitors.
Photo: Courtesy Copenhagen Zoo Extra Large Image


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