The public will soon have the opportunity to experience the vulnerability and awe of briefly inhabiting an animal domain at the “Reverse Zoo,” LABIOMISTA. Translating to “mixture of life,” the 60-acre project is spearheaded by Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen and is set to open in 2019.
The former mining town of Genk, Belgium, has welcomed dozens of animals to their new home in the park, including tropical birds, llamas, and Vanmechelen’s brood of crossbred domestic chickens to name only a few. Designed by Belgian landscape architects BURO Landschap in consultation with a team of biologists, the park employs no cages or fences to keep the human visitors apart from the animals. Instead, subtle landscape features focused on the animals’ well-being do the protective work, while remaining unobtrusive to the public eye and maintaining visitors’ feeling of immersion.
While the public nature grounds where the animals roam comprise most of the acreage, the park is shared with Vanmechelen’s own 53,000-square-foot private studio designed by Mario Botta. Also known as the Battery, the studio is composed of concrete, birchwood, and black brick in Botta’s characteristically clean, geometric style. Inside the three-story building are two aviaries, Vanmechelen’s working studio, and exhibition space, along with storage, offices, and a kitchen.
The site also includes a multi-purpose amphitheater, rooftop terrace performance space, and a marketplace/dining area. Scattered throughout the landscape and within the Battery are Vanmechelen's works of art. When combined with the animal encounters and striking architecture, LABIOMISTA is sure to create a wholly mesmerizing experience.