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  6. In Progress: Elephant House / Foster + Partners

In Progress: Elephant House / Foster + Partners

  • 01:00 - 24 May, 2008
In Progress: Elephant House / Foster + Partners
In Progress: Elephant House / Foster + Partners, © Unknown photographer
© Unknown photographer

© Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer +15

From the architect. If house design is a challenge, imagine designing a house for elephants. Foster + Partners took the challenge and is currently finishing the Elaphant House at the Copenhagen Zoo, for a group of Indian elephants.

© Unknown photographer
© Unknown photographer

The Elephant House is covered with lightweight, glazed domes that enclosure spaces with a strong visual connection with the sky and changing patterns of daylight.

The elephants can congregate here, or out in the adjacent paddocks. Broad public viewing terraces run around the domes externally, while a ramped promenade leads down into an educational space, looking into the enclosures along the way. Barriers between the animals and visitors are discreet, and the paddock walls are concealed in an elongated pool of water so that the approaching visitor encounters the elephants as another surprise in the Romantic landscape of the park.

© Unknown photographer
© Unknown photographer

Significantly, in terms of the elephants well-being, the building sets new zoological standards. For example, the main herd enclosure will for the first time enable elephants in captivity to sleep together, as they would in the wild, while the floors are heated to keep them dry and thus maintain the health of the elephants feet. Other key aspects of the design are the result of research into the elephants natural habitat. The paddocks recreate a section of dry riverbed as found at the edge of the rainforest a favourite haunt of Asian elephants. With mud holes, scattered pools of water and shading objects, it will be a place where the animals can play and interact freely.

© Unknown photographer
© Unknown photographer
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "In Progress: Elephant House / Foster + Partners" 24 May 2008. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


A Will · September 19, 2010

Some great pictures of awesome architecture here. Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I'm more of a visual learner,I found that to be more helpful well let me know how it turns out!

Laura · July 01, 2009

I was pretty curious about the welfare of the zoo elephants after reading this. I found some images of the outside enclosure to be very encouraging. The grounds look rather sparse to me though. The exhibit is still new, perhaps more vegetation will be added.

Considering the previous structure, this one looks like quite an improvement.

Alicja Scigaczewska · June 10, 2009

The Elephant House by Foster+Partners.

mirales · May 22, 2009

any tree to put in? any window on this beauty dome to OPEN?

it is like keeping prisoner on the concrete floor and openining key hole size opening over his head telling "but he has day light and breeze of fresh air!"...

what animals did to people to deserve prisoning in ZOOs?
and what is better in this space than in anyother zooooooooooooooooo? not clear Sir.

Maia Jane · March 22, 2009

Do they have any opportunity to play outside? do they have any vegetation?
Having seen elephants in the wild in India, and in Africa, I can tell you they do not live in sand-boxes. There are trees and grass and SPACE. If this was their nighttime enclosure I could cut them some slack.
Someone should realize that there are specialists who design enclosures, you shouldn't hire an architect to design a habitat for an animal, not only is it unethical, you are producing something for humans and not for the animals.

David · June 23, 2008

poor elephants :D

effe · May 31, 2008

i agree with keith.. plus, seing the scale of the user (in this case an elephant) it looks like is not an space where he can feel in an armonic proportion between the size and the scale. yes it feels big, but it looks like it's made for a human of the size of an elephant but not for an elephant (someone who lives without restrictions to the sky and sides)... the proportion of a human scale obviously changes when it comes to another animal of its size.... i dunno it feels like he is in a lab or something... Foster is still very far from being able to build something like a natural environment and i think no one can, he should've done a negative of this building... instead of a big mass, something that would've been like an open space.. maybe he shold've done bridges or something like that, for the visitors (obviously with an excelent design) and leave the rest like a real natural environment... i dunno but that's what i would've done for this comission and i think it could've been a better solution to this "problem"

Keith Lindsay · May 26, 2008

What a horror. Architects pretending to understand what elephants need out of life, and coming up with a stark, bare, display case. The nice whirly glass roof cannot disguise the fact that this is just another collector's box, showing unsuspecting visitors what wild animals look like when their habitat is stripped away and they have no place to hide their loss of self-respect. Shame on Foster et al, for not thinking about what they were doing when given this commission.


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