Bristol zoo

Chester Zoo's Answer to Bristol Zoo's EcoPark

Project in context of zoo. As pointed out in a comment on Bristol Zoo's Eco Park, Chester Zoo has just unveiled a comparative project.  Very little in the way of imagery is available, but this project seems to mimic the Eden Project in its use of a bio-dome to create a simulated African rainforest. 

At nearly $550 million, Chester Zoo has poised itself to become the top zoo in the world for displaying African rainforest fauna.   The project, encompassing approximately 200 acres (more than double the size of many city zoos, including Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and St. Louis), incorporates many theme park elements, such as a directly linked hotel and a water ride. 

Project Rendering

From BBC News:

"A giant dome housing a rainforest is part of a £225m plan to transform Chester Zoo into Europe's largest conservation attraction.

The project includes a 56 hectare indoor African-themed rainforest where gorillas, chimpanzees and other tropical animals can move freely.

The £90m eco dome, which would form the initial phase of the scheme, would be the first of its kind in the UK.

A 90-room hotel is also set to be part of plans submitted later this year.

The project, called Natural Vision, includes a Conservation College and a revamped main entrance linking it to a marina development on zoo land next to the Shropshire Union Canal.

The dome itself will have an interactive water ride to give visitors unique views of the animal enclosures.

The aim is, by 2018, to showcase and support the zoo's international conservation work, which currently involves 50 countries.

Prof Gordon McGregor Reid, director general of Chester Zoo, said: "Natural Vision will offer a fun, family-friendly, adventurous, yet educational window on the world of conservation.

"New and exciting animal species will be introduced. This project is unlike anything that has been in the UK and will offer a spectacular visitor experience and the highest standards of animal welfare."

The zoo, which celebrates its 75th anniversary in May, attracts 1.3m visitors a year.

The new project is expected to see visitors rise to 2m when complete. Chester Zoo spans 50 hectares but owns another 200.

When finished, Natural Vision will cover 80 hectares including new road access and parking.

Meanwhile, hundreds of jobs will be created for the north west, during construction and following completion of the project, said a zoo spokesman.

Prof McGregor Reid added: "Our visitors will be immersed in the world of wildlife where we will engage, inform educate and amaze them in a truly thrilling and unique environment." "


I'm looking forward to getting more details and images on the plans for the expansion.  Much luck to all involved!

Bristol Zoo's New Eco-Zoo

Its been touted as the "Eden Project" of wildlife. 

However, if you've been to the Eden Project, you'll know this project seems to fall short.  Very short, in my opinion.  

Eden Project from above.  Reclamation of Clay Mine.

eden-3The Eden Project was, and is, as innovative in approach, as it was in design, made all that more impressive by the fact that botanical gardens and arboretia tend to be, well, on the more dull side.  The Eden Project, built in a reclaimed clay mine, brought hip to gardens; it connects the reality of being green to the flashy, trendy movement.  It creates a place to enjoy nature as an art, and art in nature, sometimes quite literally.  It's also beautiful, fun, exciting, and a gorgeous piece of architecture and landscape architecture.

Walk at Eden Project

Bristol Zoo's "Eco-Zoo", which was conceived over 40 years ago and since shelved, claims to become "the first conservation-led animal visitor attraction of its kind in the UK."  The $140 million Park is planned at 136 acres, and aims to be open by 2012, a lofty goal considering it hasn't yet been approved.  The Park estimates attendance at 400,000 annually.  

Touting itself as the "next generation of zoological attractions", I'm especially curious at what it aims to do differently.  The single article I could find about it outlines a few key points:

1.  "Bristol's "eco zoo" could connect the inherent interest value of captive animals with the conservation methods needed to save their wild cousins."

2. "The whole idea of captivity will be reduced to a minimum....The often controversially cramped spaces of the Victorian era's most famous zoos are gone – replaced with open land, moats and ditches."

3. "...most importantly, the four themed areas of the park...have all been chosen to reflect specific areas of the world where conservation is desperately needed to save critically endangered species. "

The Eco-Zoo's Sumatra Exhibit

The Eco-Zoo's Sumatran Exhibit

 So far, this sounds very similar to most zoos creating new exhibits across the U.S. and world.  Victorian era design died in the Victorian era, and as illustrated in a previous post, the idea of landscape immersion has been around since the 1970s.  Creating themed areas based on conservation needs is what is done with virtually every new exhibit out there.  What of all of the recent and upcoming Arctic exhibits?  Bronx Zoo's Madagascar!? I'm duly unimpressed thus far...

The Eco-Zoo's British Woodland Exhibit
The Eco-Zoo's British Woodland Exhibit

The Eco-Zoo's Indian Ocean Exhibit


But then there's this:

"Food for the animals will be organic, while 80 per cent of the building material will be locally sourced and sustainable. "

And this:

"Every aspect of the park's design incorporates sustainability, from the buildings and the engineering infrastructure to the landscape."

Now that's new.  Seriously, folks.  Zoos tout themselves as conservation leaders, but are some of the most un-green institutions out there.  Tremendous amounts of water and electricity are wasted daily on washout of stalls and sustaining water life support systems in tanks and pools, amongst other things.  

Buildings themselves are most often behind the scenes and often suffer from the smallest budget.  For this reason, environmentally friendly alternative building practices rarely are integrated.   Recently, however, some zoos have been making an effort with their "non-animal" buildings, such as the LEED silver certified Nutrition Center at St. Louis Zoo.  

Silver Certified Nutrition Center at St. Louis Zoo

Speaking of the infamous LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accreditation, no standards exist for buildings housing animals.  So, zoos and aquariums looking to do right by the environment through LEED (and gain a little good press and grant money, too), are oftentimes without means.   In the non-profit sector (as in many others), if you can't gain revenue or attendance increases from something, it isn't done.  And there goes the green leadership...

However, if this project can put their money where their mouth is (almost literally!), they may be onto something special.  If not for innovation in zoological exhibit design, then definitely for innovation in zoological construction and green design. 

I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more news about this potentially exciting project.

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