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Night Safari Four Years After: A Post-occupancy Review

by Michael Graetz and Simon Corder


The Night Safari was four years old on May 26 1998. Candlelight was the order of the day - or night - on the birthday, as it is every night. Candlelight - or firelight - in visitor areas creates ‘atmosphere’ and contrasts with the habitat lighting.

The Night Safari is forty hectares of nocturnal animal exhibits displayed in habitat zones, at night in simulated moonlight. The Night Safari is a separate, self-contained entity, operated by the Singapore Zoo and thus is the first totally nocturnal, totally night-time animal attraction anywhere in the world.

The idea of displaying nocturnal animals at night, without the need for day/night reversal, is at once appealing, but raises many questions. Among them:

  1. What are the benefits of night displays to visitors and animals?
  2. Does animal behaviour differ in the Night Safari compared to day zoos?
  3. How should exhibits viewed in the night differ from those in daytime zoos?
  4. How should animals and exhibit be lit?

For the uninitiated, visitors speak of the Night Safari as a holistic ‘experience’ in a tropical forest at night, unlike the linked but separate experiences of a typical zoo.  After four years of operations and six years of planning and development before that, however, we felt that not all visitors appreciated the magic.  We undertook a major review to take stock and map out the future, as well as to stay ahead of the curve, to advance our concepts beyond the fundamental innovation.

This paper describes and explains the Night Safari concept and the lighting model used. Conclusions of the recent review are discussed as vindicating the concept.  Finally, principles drawn from a decade of developing the Night Safari and a design-oriented organisational philosophy are suggested as applicable to zoos undergoing renewal and to zoo exhibit design generally.

  1. Senior Architect, Singapore Zoological Gardens  email
  2. Freelance Lighting Designer, London email

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