Vertical Zoo looking up

This speculative proposal for a zoo was interested in the opportunities afforded by a vertical tower rather than a flat zoo sprawled over a large area. Our approach takes the most obvious feature of the tower— its height— and uses it as a new way to mediate between visitors and animals. Like an English ha-ha in the air, gaps in the floors serve as the primary mode of separation, minimizing the normative conditions of cages and fences. Informed by the physical capabilities of the animals, these gaps allow a unique experience of shared landscapes. Stairs and pathways wind through the exhibits and between floors, enabling visitors to see the animals in close proximity from a series of dramatic vantage points.

The elevators are separated into six cores arranged to maximize views and sunlight within the constraints of the various users and their required access. These cores support the entire floor system and leave the corners of the tower free of obstructions. A mix of floor heights and plan configurations provide a wide range of habitats, while the root zone of each level conceals a grid of trusses and provides areas for zookeepers, storage, and water systems.

The vertical zoo is sited in the Río de la Plata next to the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve (an area of land in Buenos Aires that was reclaimed from the river when it was filled with rubble during the construction of the highway system in the 1970’s). A long pier connects the 600-ft tower back to a network of paths running through the reserve and minimizes disruption to an emerging ecosystem. We saw our proposal as part of the city’s ongoing relationship with natural and artificial ecologies, embodying the unique juxtapositions of Buenos Aires and the shifting meanings of nature in the contemporary world.

Vertical Zoo overall view
Vertical Zoo site plan
Site plan
Vertical Zoo viewing deck
Vertical Zoo elevator studies
Elevator and stair configuration studies
Vertical Zoo plan
Floor plan (level 7)
Vertical Zoo conceptual sketches
Conceptual sketches
Vertical Zoo curving floors
Vertical Zoo viewing detail
Vertical Zoo floating floors
Vertical Zoo top viewing deck

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Project: 2009–2010
In collaboration with: Ian Kaplan, Louis Rosario
Program: zoo, viewing platforms, classrooms, restaurant
Area: 280,000 sq ft