Urs Eggenschwyler who worked directly with Carl Hagenbeck creating sculptures and artificial rocks started his own private menagerie on the Milchbuck in Zürich, 1881. He used to walk a hand-raised lion in the Niederdorf area. A tiny little jealous of Basel, Zürich had to wait until 1927 for its own city zoo to open.
When the tram turns into the Weinbergstrasse the Prague Zoo comes to mind, located at 200-400m altitude on a wine mountain. A little while later we turn right into the Zürichbergerstrasse to a zoo at 640 meters altitude.
Zoo cafe and restaurant Pantanal date from 1929. Nowadays, the entrance pavilion, café and restaurant, shop, zoo tram station, and ticket office as a whole look like architecture fused with choreography. The visitors move on the flowing lines and light distribution connecting the new design to the existing structure. In 2001, Jean-Pierre Dürig and Philippe Rämi have redesigned the original entrance and restaurants for which they received the architecture award of the Canton of Zurich. In 2013, L3P architects take further steps to guide the many visitors. They use a lot of authentic material in indoor areas, too.
This three-story building is the original main building. The south-west facing wing (aviary, chimpanzee enclosure) is rounded so that the light enters through the largest glass surface as possible. The roofs with different angles of inclination create an appealing "tower room" for the Insectarium, a spiral staircase leading to it. The gently sloping terrain lends itself well to stables in the basement on the east side. The east wing features the aquarium and terrarium and in the basement a north-facing elephant stable. The building was provided with a pump heating system. Aquarium and terrarium are reopened in 2016, after renovation.
Influence of zoo directors
In the beginning, no architect is involved. The signature of the first directors is however seen throughout the zoo. Hans Steiner was a zoologist. Felix Hofmann ran a plantation on Sumatra before becoming the director (1933-1953) and imported animals from Africa during his tenure. He has built a monkey house (1938) and an aviary for birds of prey and pheasants (1939).
And the founder of zoo biology, Professor Dr Heini Hediger, who was in charge of Bern Zoo and Basel Zoo before he became the director in Zürich (1954-1973), was preoccupied with environmental enrichment and customer experience almost avant la lettre.
Zoo design according to Hediger
Hediger approaches zoo design from the perspective of customizing enclosures in a way which responds best to the animals' natural way of living. Enclosure size is not leading, psychological space, however, is. Key is that the animal can express all its natural behaviours. Of course, the happy flow is mainly implemented: as long as an animal feels safe it will not flee. He demonstrates that housing animals in mixed species exhibits can be efficient, enriching the lives of the animals, and creating an enjoyable view.
Africa House 1965
Hediger has built both the Africa House and the Elephant House. The Africa House exemplifies his innovative thinking. It is designed so that no walls met at a 90-degree angle. Daylight enters through two large concrete domes, thus stimulating plant growth. Spotlights instead of fluorescent tubes. Four sections are provided featuring a back wall and a ditch covered with spherical gravel to prevent from hurting if a rhino or hippo falls into it. And mixed housing, of course, you could see oxpeckers hopping on a rhinoceros' back. A transparent dome above the hippopotamus basin which got a natural exit instead of stairs. Three outdoor terraces.
Architects involved: Rudolf Zürcher, Esther en Rudolf Guyer
The Africa House has been given listed status. Reopening as Australia House is scheduled for spring 2018.
Hediger invented the information panel and introduced it in Zürich Zoo: (scientific) name, image, and a short description of the animal.
Modern nature-centred architecture
Hediger was not an architect but all architects in his and the next century rely on his insights. It is about quality over quantity, animal friendliness, natural behaviour, sustainability and yet also the visitor experience.
To the main building featuring an aviary, an aquarium, a terrarium, an elephant house, and a monkey enclosure, a predator house, bear pit, and simple open-air enclosures are added. That's it, in 1929.
In 1935, Zürich Zoo puts a group of 65 Moroccans on display.
Zoo Zürich aims to recreate ecosystems rather than just exhibiting animal species. The zoo is undergoing a major expansion that will eventually double its size.
- 1992 South American cloud forest (spectacled bears, coatis)
- 1997 Eurasian Waterland (birds)
- 2001/2 Himalaya (Siberian tiger, snow leopard)
- 2002 Zoolino
- 2003 Masoala Rainforest
- 2006/2007 Gir dry forest (Asiatic) lions)
- 2008: African Semien mountain (geladas and Nubian goats)
- 2012 Pantanal wetlands (tapirs)
- 2013 Treetop walkway in Masoala Rainforest
- 2014 Kaeng Krachan Elephant Park and Masoala Express
- 2015 Mongolian steppe (yaks and camels)
- 2018 Conversion of the Africa House into an Australian enclosure
- 2020 Lewa savannah (giraffes, white rhinoceroses)
Visit January 2018
The zoo perched on the Zürichberg is pleasant to take your time. Most indoor areas have a lot of space to sit, watch, draw... the ape house even offers a vintage living room experience. Everything is as eco as eco can be, cutting-edge technology. A rich zoo that receives many gifts and bequests. Typically Swiss? The naturalistic enclosures on the slope act like balm. And the Exotarium has got it. Varied information in a Yurt or a clay hut depending on the geographical zone in which you landed. The Elephant House resembles a turtle with a wooden shield in which 271 skylights are made of UV-permeable foil; it is not supported by pillars inside. About 1:30 pm, tourists and parents with buggies join the king penguin parade.
Heini Hediger, the founder of the zoo biology served as zoo director in Zürich. He scientifically addressed the confinement of animals. His approach to zoo design is more profound and less commercial than the ideas of Carl Hagenbeck.
Plattegronden dierentuin Zürich
- September 7, 1929
- Species: 357
- Animals: 4152
- 28 ha
- 640 meters altitude
Sources consulted / Links
Wikipedia, Heini Hediger
Zoo Zürich, masterplan
Stadt Zürich, Urs Eggenschwyler, Löwe, 1898
Architekturpreis Eingang Zoo Zürich
Ryf Partner Architekten AG, Himalaya Anlage Zoo Zürich
vetschpartner Landschaftsarchitekten AG, Lewa Savanne, Zoo Zürich
ArchDaily, Elephant House Zoo Zürich / Markus Schietsch Architekten
Architekturfotografie, Exotarium zoo Zürich