One of the oldest cage-free zoos in the world, The Paris Zoological Park has long been a proponent of animal conservation since its opening in 1934. Of over 85 species housed at the zoo, most are considered endangered with habitats that are near-destruction and are thus directly benefitting from the zoo’s efforts. Situated in the historical Parc de Vincennes, the relatively small zoo (about 15 ha) is marked by nearly one century of evolution on the safeguarding and the presentation of the animals of the world in an urban environment.
Constructed mostly from concrete rock which after 70 years has become unsafe for habitation, the Paris Zoo’s reconstruction builds around its important conservationist inheritance in order to preserve its identity while creating a new mode of animal presentation and educational experience. The design team, including Atelier Jacqueline Osty for landscape design and master planning, Bernard Tschumi urbanistes Architectes with Véronique Descharrières for the new architectural project and the group Synthese, with Bernard Hemery for renovation and technical buildings, used techniques of immersion, visibility and camouflage to simultaneously address the comfort of the animals in their habitats and to create a strong sensual and emotional visitor experience. For the architects, the design concern goes beyond the decoration and mimicry of nature and moves into the specific realm and requirement of each animal. The priority is not to create architecture in the traditional sense of the term for the zoo, but to instead create specific mediums so as to hide, complement or blend the buildings into a natural setting, allowing for a new sense of immersion never before seen in zoo design.