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Heidelberg Zoo Extension

The proposed zoo extension is split into three distinct zones. The Biodiversity Centre, the House of Tropical River and the African Savannah.  Each of these zones is defined on the site according to their relevant function.


An undulating asymmetrical figure eight circulation arrangement around the complex enables visitors to view the natural setting along the banks of the river whilst efficiently offering various vantage points for observing the animals and exhibitions simultaneously.


The zoo extension is orientated along two main axial points. The east west axis links the existing zoo to the new extension and the proposed riverside promenade. It also creates a secondary entrance for the zoo via the new Bio-diversity centre. A north south axis maintains close physical and visual links between university campus sites, the zoo and the river.


The Biodiversity centre is located to the east of the site creating a secondary entrance for the zoo. A delicately landscaped forecourt ramps down into the centre where visitors are greeted with a top lit atrium space and an impressive aquarium back wall on the main entrance axis. Access to the zoo is provided on the lower ground level as well as animal enclosure space, the whole foods shop and additional retail units.


The first floor comprises of an open plan permanent exhibition space configured around a central atrium. A café/restaurant is also located on this level, strategically placed to maximise views down the Neckar river and beyond towards the old town. Access to an external terrace for alfresco dining is also provided. From this level the nature reserve footbridge can be accessed which projects out towards the protected Neckar islands. This new attraction will offer visitors the chance to study Heidelberg’s local flora, fauna and conservation area. The first floor also offers the opportunity for visitor’s to access the ‘sky walk’ which journeys through the African Savannah.


The second floor consists of the temporary exhibition space orientated to the advantageous south side of the building. A library and lab spaces are situated to the east and west ends of the atrium with the core and supports spaces located to the north side of the building.


The African Savannah

A large portion of the new zoo extension is occupied by the African savannah attraction.  Contrary to traditional zoo design, the proposed African savannah shall provide vast open animal enclosures whilst maintaining public viewing flexibility.


Internal animal enclosures are located to the north side of the site along with their associated support spaces. The south of the site is entirely made up of savannah landscape. The southern aspect maximises the sunlight and maintains the crucial relationship between zoo and river. The Giraffe house is located at the west end of the savannah where the maximum space is available. A watering hole is provided along with ample external savannah terrain for the giraffe to move around. Support space is located and shared between the ape enclosure and the giraffe house above which an animal-viewing terrace is incorporated. The enclosures have been designed to minimize their visual impact on the site. Clearly defined water moats are integrated into the landscape design with green walls forming balustrades between visitor and animal. These have been designed in such a way eliminating the need for unnecessary traditional caged enclosures.


The ape enclosure is located in close proximity to the existing ape enclosures at Heidelberg zoo. This transition between the existing zoo and new extension enables the visitor to navigate clearly between the two.


The aviary is located at the heart of the zoo extension effectively acting as a transfer between the biodiversity centre and the African savannah. This building is louvered on the south and west side to provide solar shading and a level of acoustic absorption.  Furthermore, it also tapers out towards the top to maximise the built volume for the birds in the higher portion of the enclosure.


Visitors are given the opportunity to journey though the savannah at an elevated level via the ‘sky walk’. The walkway links the existing zoo with the new extension and through to the Bio-diversity centre. It also forms a continuation of the Neckar island foot bridge.


The sky walk, visitor pathways and external animal enclosures are partially covered by a canopy which provides protection from the glaring sun in the summer and driving wind and rain in the winter. This offers both animals and the public access to the external environment all year round.  The structure is a lightweight frame with infill panels. These patchwork of panels consist of photovoltaic cells, opaque and translucent screens. 


The House of Tropical River is located on the most northern boundary of the site. More in scale with its immediate neighbouring buildings the one storey pavilion is effectively an aquarium. Solar shading is provided by the light dampening affect of the tall aviary building adjacent to the aquarium. The building is designed to appear submerged in water. The main entrance is accessed via a bridge over a moat. It is envisaged that on entering the building the visitor is presented with full height acrylic walls and ceiling which would provide the illusion of being underwater. The pavilion would be split into the three river zones with enclosure space provided both inside and out.

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