BIG Unveils Design For “Zootopia” In Denmark

Courtesy of BIG

Danish architects BIG () have just released ambitious designs for a zoo in Givskud, . It’s a project that provides an intriguing opportunity for, as BIG explains, the creation of a space with “the best possible and freest possible environment for the animals’ lives and relationships with each other and visitors.” The firm has been working for the past two years to make Zootopia what the Danish press is calling “the world’s most advanced zoo.” According to Givskud Zoo‘s director Richard Østerballe, the park’s transformation will benefit greatly from BIG’s fresh approach to design–one that has been characterized by the integration of nature and natural elements into cutting-edge, innovative architecture.

The project will attempt to “integrate and hide buildings” within the landscape. Upon entering the zoo, visitors can either enter a large central square or climb the “building-landscape,” allowing them to get a general overview of the layout of the park. From this central element, visitors can access different areas of the zoo. A 4km hiking trail connects the different areas (which represent the continents of Africa, America and Asia).

 The first phase is expected to be completed in 2019 to coincide with the park’s 50th anniversary.

Read on for more images and BIG’s project statement. 

Courtesy of BIG

From the Architect. Architects’ greatest and most important task is to design man-made ecosystems – to ensure that our cities and buildings suit the way we want to live. We must make sure that our cities offer a generous framework for different people – from different backgrounds, economy, gender, culture, education and age – so they can live together in harmony while taking into account individual needs as well as the common good. Nowhere is this challenge more acrimonious than in a zoo. It is our dream – with Givskud – to create the best possible and freest possible environment for the animals’ lives and relationships with each other and visitors.

To create a framework for such diverse users and residents such as gorillas, wolves, bears, lions and elephants is an extremely complex task. We are pleased to embark on an exciting journey of discovery with the Givskud staff and population of animals – and hope that we could both enhance the quality of life for the animals as well as the keepers and guests – but indeed also to discover ideas and opportunities that we will be able to transfer back into the urban jungle. Who knows perhaps a rhino can teach us something about how we live – or could live in the future?

Courtesy of BIG
Courtesy of BIG
Courtesy of BIG

Status: In Progress
Size in m2: 1200000
Project type: Commission
Client: Givskud Zoo
Location: Givskud, Denmark

Partner in Charge:
Bjarke Ingels, Jakob Lange
Project Leader: Nanna Gyldholm Møller
Team: Aleksander Wadas, Thomas Juul Jensen, Romain Pequin, Agnete Jukneviciute, Sofia Adolfsson and Maren Allen

Story via, images and project info courtesy of BIG.

Cite: Quintal, Becky. "BIG Unveils Design For “Zootopia” In Denmark" 29 Jul 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • zvc

    The only place wildlife should live is .. drum roll .. the wild.

  • Tomas

    Interesting concept. But I highly doubt the interaction between animals and visitors will be as the one they depict in the diagrams. One way or another, animals will still be physically separated from visitors by some type of barrier. The idea that a cage itself won’t necessarily be needed and animals will be rather separated taking advantage of terrain elevation changes and other stuff will improve the visual aspect of the Zoo, since animals no longer seem to be in a prison cell. However, to me it isn’t still clear how they are going to accomplish that complete interaction among both sides. I’ll be waiting to finally see how that is done (and learn from it), or on the other hand be somewhat dissapointed by the selling of an idea that as its name implies is really an utopia and doesn’t even work in the renderings because, to be honest, the image of the two children sharing a river with two elephants made me only think of one word: Casualties.

    • kevin

      Disney’s Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro safari is the closest precedent for this interaction. Many non predator type animals are available to roam freely without barriers.Disney keeps you in a off-road vehicle, and it seems they are trying create a similar effect. However, I find a firm like SCAPE would be better suited for this type of project. I would find it more interesting, because they seem more invested in ecology infrastructure. This seems to be petrified work at best which strips all notions of “place” away from it.

      • Zofia Kostyrko

        Kevin – agree with all you say. I was on the DIsney Animal Kingdom Core design team and did the journey from first idea thru completion, and thru the lofty design intent to the reality of operations. It works better or at least as well as the best Zoo’s out there.
        I don’t know enough about the new Danish project here, but based on the available info it appears to continue the high design/architectural approach that is human-centric-needs not animal-behavior and ecosystem driven, starting with the selection of objects and surfaces, and overall flow. Animals appear to be decorative elements, albeit closer (in reality to be seen as you point out), in a “cool” manmade landscape once again.

  • Alexandre Collaço

    Very interesting design, although I`m against zoos.

  • Linda Wark

    Doesn’t Denmark have some animal brothel issues to fix before designing new ways to keep wild animals captive?

  • Small

    Yet another project where Bjarke refuses engage the inherent politics of the Architecture. really unfortunate.