What is a zoo? A zoo is a facility that shelters animals belonging to diverse classifications. Zoos exhibit Arthropods (crustaceans, insects), Amphibians, Vertebrates, Reptiles, Chordates, Aves (sparrows, ducks), Mammals and many more. But do these facilities fulfil any other beneficiary requirements other than being an entertainment facility to the public? Animals come from distinct ecosystems and hence require an atmosphere that predominantly treats them with excellent care and comfort. 

As designers, we should strive to redevelop and redesign animal habitats that work on proposing platforms that strengthen the bond between humans and animals. Hence, zoos undoubtedly need to follow certain guidelines and tips that improve the living quality of these wild and domestic beings. 

So, here are 10 things for you to consider while designing a zoo:

1. Harmonize with Nature

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Elephant-enclosure-zurich – ©markusschietsch.com

The Elephant House in Zürich, Switzerland, has an iconographic wooden roof that seems to be emerging from nature and yet continues to be a standout. This triple-layered prefabricated structure looks like a shell that is in its natural form. 

The roof catches the observer’s eye because it maintains a perfect relationship with surrounding elements. The cutouts in the roof produce lighting effects when sunlight strikes the exterior of this mind-blowing creation. This is a great example of generating an atmospheric envelope between nature and architecture.

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Elephant-enclosure-zurich –©markusschietsch.com
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Elephant-enclosure-zurich – Interior©markusschietsch.com
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Elephant-enclosure-zurich –©markusschietsch.com

2. Understanding Criterion and Maintaining Standards

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Macaws at Bali Bird Park – ©Svetlana Bobrova – The Jakarta Post

The Urban Zoos house many of the rare species since this very selection is the main attraction for big crowds, but everything depends on what type of zoo is being designed and maintained. Zoos vary in wide ranges; there are safari parks, open ranges, animal theme parks, bird parks, wildlife parks and many more. Each category of the zoo has hundreds of essential requirements of its own. 

Type of atmosphere, temperature requirements, climatological aspects, food availability and services play the biggest roles in providing satisfying habitats to the animals.

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Paradise Wildlife Park – ©bbc.com
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3. Selecting your Animals

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Swamp Rabbit – ©Danita Delimont – goodhousekeeping.com

Many animals are awake in the day (diurnal); others prefer awakening at night (nocturnal). This phenomenon majorly affects the entire design process; since with daylight, it is harder to maintain a particular type of atmosphere along with suitable temperatures.

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Black-Chinned_Hummingbird – ©SB Nace – goodhousekeeping.com

4. Manifesting a Natural Habitat

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Panda’s Habitat – ©ssec.si.edu

The animals should feel welcomed in their respective habitats. Small vegetation, pools, shrubs, different types of trees, plants, etc., should be incorporated during the initial stages of the design process since it takes a lot of time for any zone to develop specific characteristics. Studying animal behaviour is a prime factor because then only the primary design needs for the zoo can be carried through.

5. Presence of Recreational Spaces

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Orangutan Swinging Hand Over Hand – ©ssec

Animals, like humans, too dwell in creative activities. For example, some forage for food, others climb, jump or just simply roam. Physical activities are also crucial for the mental, emotional and physical health of animals. A zoo is a captivated space but shouldn’t feel like one to its inhabitants; rather, it should be warm and welcoming.

6. Different types of Enclosures

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The Panda House – ©Frank Ronsholt – Copenhagen Zoo

Some animals love shelters; some prefer to stay in the wild. The enclosure has to be comfortable and within reach of the animal. The zoo must acknowledge the proximity of food and water since searching for these can be tiresome and monotonous, which will ultimately waste the animal’s energy.

7. Public Safety

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Public Safety – ©ssec

Along with animals, humans need to be protected as well. Thousands of people visit a zoo in a year since it is a fun and very communicative way of interacting with nature. There are specific categories of wild animals that are extremely vicious and should not be approached by non-animal caregivers at any cost since there’s no way a person can understand the animal when that person has no knowledge of animal behavioural patterns.

8. Selection of Materials

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Sloth Bear – ©ssec

Natural substitutes are utilized in the form of wood chips, logs, branches etc. Making a region seem perfectly natural is challenging but, if executed efficiently, can transform an animal’s health. Primates, for example, indulge in jumping from bark to bark or playing with their siblings. Every animal follows a routine with certain techniques, and these materials help in stimulating positive reactions among them.

9. Understanding Timelines and Realizing Responsibilities

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General Classification of the Organizational Structure of a Zoo – ©eaza – The Modern Zoo: Foundations for Management and Development

Regularly updating records, scheduling meetings on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis should be the topmost priority in any zoo. Food charts, health checkups, medical and emergency facilities are all fundamental features. Animals need excessive care and support because they are taken out of their quintessential habitats and forced to shape their homes in someplace foreign.

10. Type of Vegetation

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Koala – ©Jason Bittel – smithsonianmag

Vegetation in abundance is crucial to animals since their life depends on it. Small plants and shrubs could be poisonous and therefore kill animals. Deciding the categorization of plants should be done only by an expert. Wrong selection and plantation could produce life-threatening results.

Our ecosystems constantly rely on the growth of living beings. Therefore, it is our responsibility as humans to monitor and serve all the animals with the best care because, without them, the ecosystems will break down as quickly as a pyramid of cards.


www.markusschietsch.com. (n.d.). Elephant Enclosure Zurich – Markus Schietsch Architekten. [online] Available at: https://www.markusschietsch.com/en/project/elephant-enclosure-zurich [Accessed 15 Jul. 2021].

The Modern Zoo: Foundations for Management and development. (n.d.). [online] . Available at: https://www.eaza.net/assets/Uploads/images/Membership-docs-and-images/Zoo-Management-Manual-compressed.pdf.

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2017). Zoo. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/zoo.


As an architecture enthusiast she takes active interest in exploring different ethnicities and tries to find a perfect medium to integrate the cultural diversities from an architect’s as well as a writer’s point of view. Pure imagination and knowledge is what she conveys through her words.