A gorgeous lace-like dome hangs over the elephant population at the Kaeng Krachen Elephant Park at Zoo Zurich in Switzerland. Designed by Markus Schietsch Architekten, the pavilion is capped with an undulating wooden roof made from prefabricated sections. Inside, the elephants can frolic in a glass-sided swimming pool, with close up views for curious visitors.
The sprawling new elephant pavilion expands the animals’ space by six times, creating seamless space between indoors and out. The new compound comfortably houses ten elephants, giving them free rein to wander from the outdoors to the indoor landscaped areas – designed by Lorenz Eugster – and the glass-surrounded swimming pool, which gives visitors and underwater view of the playful animals.
The domed wooden roof was designed to resemble what you see when you look up into a forest canopy. The wooden, irregular grid is fitted with 271 ETFE plastic skylights, which let in ample sunlight all day. Between the skylights, the wooden structures jut out in different angles and thicknesses, as if they were real tree branches in the wild. The wooden roof blends with the planted trees within the new elephant habitat, both filtering natural sunlight to create different atmospheres throughout the day.
The wavy roof meets the complex with varying sized glass walls, which rise and fall with the roof height. Underneath, the elephants can now roam freely under 11,000 square feet, without having to come in contact with the zoo caretakers, giving the animals a sense of freedom to develop natural social relationships.