Elephant Park, Zurich Zoo

Elefantenpark, Zoo Zürich

In Zurich Zoo the Kaeng Krachan elephant park provides a home for Asian elephants that resembles the animals’ natural habitat as closely as possible. Part of the complex is the 6800 square metre curved roof of the elephant house, which needed no internal columns.

The elephant park is one of Zurich Zoo’s big attractions. With an area of 11 000 square metres, the enclosure is modelled on Kaeng Krachan national park in Thailand and offers the Asian elephants extensive indoor and outdoor spaces with artificial rocks, water courses, basins to swim in and luxuriant planting. The organic form of the elephant house enabled it to be integrated harmoniously in the designed landscape. The round reinforced concrete building with a diameter of 80 metres is spanned by a flat, self-supporting timber dome that covers an area of around 6000 square metres. Roof lights made with a foil that allows UV light to enter create the impression of being under a canopy of leaves in a forest.

The magnet that draws the public to the building is the two-storey lodge with restaurant, information centre and a good overview of the entire enclosure. Secured routes allow visitors closer views of the elephants’ habitat. The underwater station is particularly spectacular: through large panes of glass visitors can watch the elephants swimming. Even the keepers have contact with the animals only through a steel mesh. The cows, calves and bull elephants are directed towards their respective areas by means of remote-controlled steel gates.

The elephant park was designed by Markus Schietsch Architekten in collaboration with Lorenz Eugster Landschaftsarchitekten, who together won the competition set up by Zurich Zoo in 2008. Fischer Architekten implemented the detailed building planning and were entrusted with the supervision of the entire construction work, apart from the building envelope.

Elephant Park Kaeng Krachan, Zürichbergstrasse 221, 8044 Zurich, Switzerland
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Task Implementing the project design by Markus Schietsch (competition 2008)
Job type Direct commission
Deliverables Parts of implementation project and construction management
Time period 2011–2014
Challenge An unusual, technically demanding building