The Role of Architectural Design in Promoting the Social Objectives of Zoos

A Study of Zoo Exhibit Design with Reference to Selected Exhibits in Singapore Zoological Gardens

by Michael Graetz


Activity budget:
In zoo biology studies, a way of representing animal behaviour by recording the duration of defined activities such as eating, sleeping, grooming, etc.
  1. Public or private institution specialising in the display of marine and fresh water fish and invertebrates. See also ‘Oceanarium
  2. An individual aquatic exhibit (tank) within a zoo.
Architectural determinism:
a theory employed in urbanism, sociology and environmental psychology that claims the built environment is the chief or even sole determinant of social behaviour. See here for the general definition. As applied to zoo design, it refers to ways of making wayfinding by visitors easier (minimising reliance on signage), directing visitor's attention at exhibits and engendering receptivity to the zoo's messages.
Describing animals which do not follow a particular daily activity pattern. They may be active at anytime during the day or night and often have short, frequent periods of activity between longer rests, like lions, for example.
Behavioural engineering:
Features or devices consciously designed or placed in an enclosure to modify animal behaviour usually to ameliorate negative behaviour or stimulate natural behaviours, or to position animals well for viewing. It overlaps in meaning with environmental enrichment but emphasises mechanical devices and training animals to perform actions that are part of their natural repertoire on cue to alleviate boredom, stress, etc.
Holistic conception of the natural world or an exhibit, etc. with all Life at its heart as opposed to being Man-centred.
Bioclimatic theme:
Animal exhibits grouped according to climatic type regardless of whether they are found together in nature. For example, fauna from different desert regions, tropical houses with old and new world animals.
A major regional or global biotic community, such as a grassland or tropical lowland forest, characterised chiefly by the dominant forms of plant life and the prevailing climate.
  1. A zoo cum natural history museum, cum anthropological museum, cum botanic gardens--in short, a life sciences public educational institution using both living and inanimate displays.
  2. A primarily Indian sub-continent conception of a zoological park developed and managed along the lines of a zoo but with animals controlled rather than in total captivity. Enclosures verge on true habitats.
Bird park:
A taxonomically specialised zoo with exclusively an avian collection.
Borrowed landscape:
Views of areas beyond the bounds of the exhibit, even of the zoo, visually integrated with the exhibit landscape. Facilitates the illusion that the animals occupy a larger area than they do.
An individual of the same species in an enclosure. Cf. intraspecific and interspecific, to do with relations within and between species respectively.
Of animals having a twelve-hour cycle and which are usually active around dusk and dawn.
Display themes:
The special focus of individual zoos, either in the scope and nature of their animal collections or in their manner of displaying animals.
Referring to the cycle of daily activity/rest in animals which are active by day.
A volunteer guide in a zoo, museum or art gallery. (Literally, “that teaches or instructs”).
The physical volume or area in which zoo animals are confined, usually for display; the barriers and holding facilities related to it. Often synonymous with habitat.
Environmental enrichment:
Similar to behavioural engineering except that this denotes attempts to provide animals with as normal a life as they might enjoy in the wild and emphasises naturalistic techniques rather than mechanical devices.
Exhibit furniture:
Objects and features both natural and artificial placed in exhibits for the specific behavioural needs of the animals.
Framing or framed view:
Framing uses landscape features in the foreground to focus attention and screen out extraneous visual elements from an exhibit viewpoint to create a ‘cameo’. May be used in conjunction with enrichment devices to place animals in the right spot.
General collection:
The type of animal collection in non-specialised zoos that display representatives of all main groups such as: birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and increasingly, invertebrates.
Abbreviation for ‘Glass-Fibre Reinforced Cement’ used to simulate rocks, trees, etc.
Originally a proprietary form of pneumatically projected (sprayed) concrete, it is now used generically. Useful for forming vertical and near-vertical surfaces and free form concrete structures without form-work. Allows concrete to be carved while wet.
Where animals live in the wild, but also applied to zoo enclosures or bioclimatic zones featuring habitat simulation.
A ditch concealing a fence to contain animals without marring the natural scene. Originally used by aristocratic landowners in the Eighteenth Century.
Harp wire:
See ‘Piano wire’.
Hot wire:
Electrified bare wire(s) as a (usually) secondary barrier. Standardised systems are available for domestic livestock and elephants.
A view of the world, or of a zoo exhibit, which places Man at the centre.
Interpretative graphics:
Educational graphics which give explanations for what can actually be observed in exhibits, and encourage such observation.
Landscape immersion:
In exhibits, where no distinction is made in the landscape between animal spaces and visitor spaces and barriers are concealed or disguised.
Consideration of fore-ground, middle and background in an exhibit view and introducing various vertical elements to give greater visual depth.
A collection of animals for usually private but also public display with only recreation or amusement as its purpose.
Naturalistic exhibit:
A zoo exhibit which portrays animals in a natural setting, but does not portray the natural habitat of the animal particularly except possibly symbolically. Referred to by some as “second generation” exhibits.
Of animals which are active at nigh, especially those with physical adaptations for night living such as bats.
As distinct from an aquarium, a type of institution with very large tanks and pools for the display of marine mammals and large ocean going (pelagic) fish.
Open range zoo:
Often a countryside zoo associated with a city parent zoo; featuring very large exhibits modelled on the home ranges of large mammals.
A defined vantage point for viewing an exhibit.
PAR lamp:
‘Parabolic Anodised Reflector’ lamp, an incandescent light source, either a spot or flood light.
Piano wire:
also known as ‘harp’ wire (chiefly US), closely spaced (usually vertical) strands of highly tensioned fine wire used as a viewing barrier for birds and small mammals.
Popular theme:
Indiscriminate mixes of exhibits according to perceived public popularity.
Safari park:
Animal park based on the idea of visitors driving their own vehicles through simple, fenced enclosures.
Like Gunite, this term was originally a proprietary name for a technique for spraying concrete. Now used interchangeably with ‘Gunite’.
A group of interbreeding plants or animals. Subspecies and races are subgroups of individuals of the same species in the process (called speciation) of becoming a separate species.
Any surface, including the substructure, which animals may contact in an enclosure. Has important husbandry and habitat simulation implications.
Systematic collection:
A means of spatially organising the animal collection within a zoo according to taxonomic groupings, e.g. cats, monkeys, birds, etc. are displayed in separate areas. Highly efficient for husbandry.
Tempered, laminated glass:
Tempered refers to heat treatment to toughen plate glass. The glass may then be laminated with plastic inter-layers to make the consequences of breaking less catastrophic; it does not to make the glass stronger.
Thematic collection:
Of specialisation in the animal collection. For example, bird parks, aquaria, monkey parks, local fauna parks.
The field of view from a specific vantage point or ‘overlook’. May be wide (panoramic) or a narrow angle views. Control of view-sheds determines factors such as dead spots where animals cannot be seen and cross-views of other visitors or unnatural elements. See also ‘framing
Visual integration:
Similar if not identical to landscape immersion. Method of disguising physical enclosure extent by using the same elements in the surrounding landscape.
In pedestrian circulation, the (mostly) visual clues visitors use to find their way around the zoo. These are primarily directional signs but site planning methods and landscape design can provide subtle clues - from how paths branch, views down paths, change of simulated biomes from one part of the zoo to another, and so on.
A collection of animals for pubic display with educational, recreational, conservation and/or scientific objectives.
Zoogeographic theme:
Distinct areas devoted to representative fauna (and flora) of zoological regions of the world. Cf. bioclimaic theme.

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