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.
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.
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.