Vectorworks users often design with people in mind. But the Swiss architecture firm of Markus Schietsch Architekten recently completed a project whose end users have four legs instead of two. The result is the Kaeng Krachan Elephant House at the Zürich Zoo in Switzerland, named after the Thai national park that is the native habitat of the six elephants it houses.
The design draws inspiration from structures in the natural world, creating a symbiotic relationship between architecture and the landscape. The 5,400-square-meter space is also six times bigger than what the elephants had previously.
A characteristic element of the new house is its striking wooden roof, which blends into the landscape as a shallow, freeform shell-structure. The roof dissolves into a transparent, mazelike structure that establishes an organic relationship with the surrounding forest. On the interior, the roof unfolds its atmospheric effect — as if through a canopy of trees, the sunlight filters through the intricate roof structure in constantly changing ways.
The new design permits animals to wander through a series of indoor and outdoor enclosures, including areas of open plains, vegetated niches, and pools and showers, giving them the chance to socialize and interact with each other as they would in the wild. Visitors get to see these connections up close as they weave seamlessly through the elephants’ environment on trails that are carefully hidden in the vegetation. There is even an underwater viewing area that lets visitors watch the elephants swim.
The elephants’ caretakers also benefit from the building’s design, which utilizes the principle of protected contact and keeps workers separate from the elephants for routine activities like feeding. The design helps to ensure the keepers’ safety, as well as give the elephants more freedom to develop a natural, social structure without human intervention.
A final design component was to integrate sustainable elements. The main building material is wood, and the facility’s heat is provided by a central woodchip heating system. The roof collects rainwater that is used to irrigate plants, moisten sandy ground surfaces, and keep the elephants’ pools full. Also, a specialized event control system, combined with natural ventilation, prevents the air-conditioning system in the inner compound from using more energy than necessary.
Firms like Markus Schietsch Architekten use Vectorworks software to make the world a better place every day, both for people and elephants! Read how other designers user our product on our Success Stories webpage.