Where living animals used to be put on display, visitors to Zurich’s zoo are now presented with complex habitats in line with species conservation. One of them is the Lewa Savannah. The new complex is home to giraffes, rhinos, zebras and other species, all living together. The plant species, rock formation and tricks with the design and perspective give a sense of the openness and atmosphere of the African savannah in the middle of the forests of the Zürichberg.
Swaying grasses, trees with wide canopies, groups of shrubs in the open landscape, the silhouette of a large baobab – these are the defining elements of the savannah, both in Africa and in its reproduction in Zoo Zurich.
There is a cleft that runs through the terrain of the slightly sloping complex. Designed as an abrupt edge, it sometimes acts as its boundary, sometimes as the elevated path on which visitors roam through the savannah – past antelopes, meerkats, rhinos, giraffes, ostriches and zebras. Then again, the edge becomes an exciting view and occasionally also a camouflage: where it transitions into a gorge, just like it could occur in the original landscape, the giraffe enclosure is integrated into the artificial landscape. Emerging from the watering hole, where the animals gather for drinking and bathing, is a wadi, a largely dry riverbed.
The ‘Kopjes”, huge monadnocks that are typical of Africa are a further landscape element of the savannah. The reproduction rock formations house the porcupine and hyaena enclosures in Zurich. However, evidence of a human presence is also part of the picture. A safari bus that has seemingly become stuck serves as an animal observation station, while the airport terminal and the tourism school in the Lewa village inform visitors about important aspects of tourism in Africa. The diverse zoo infrastructure easily integrates into the savannah landscape in an individual manner. The boundary of the complex is invisible, thanks to a bank. Zurich’s Savannah seems to go on as far as the eye can see – the edge of the forest.
Client: Zoo Zürich AG
Project planning: 2014-2017
Area: 56’000 m²
Architects: L3P Architekten AG, Regensberg
Photograph: Hannes Henz