Developing a Zoo Master Plan for Zoo Augsburg
A ZooLex workshop in February 2003
by Monika Fiby
on behalf of the ZooLex Zoo Design Organization
When discussing with zoo staff at conferences and other meetings I found that there is a considerable interest in hands-on experience in the field of planning and design for zoos. A design workshop at the SEAZA conference in 2001 was the starting point for me to start reaching out to zoos with ZooLex workshops.
One of our intentions for the ZooLex workshop on master planning was to present a topic that is hardly covered in books or papers and comes first when thinking about zoo design - how to define the big picture and specific goals for a zoo by developing a zoo master plan.
Another intention was to create a frame and program in ZooLex workshops that meets the needs of everybody involved and is economically viable.
Zoo Augsburg turned out to be a perfect site for a workshop on master planning. It is a medium size zoo of 22 hectares with a common mix of exhibit styles and animal species. Zoo Augsburg has perfect facilities to host a workshop for up to 25 participants and the director, Dr. Barbara Jantschke, was happy to host a workshop on zoo master planning.
The first workshop was tailored to participants from German speaking countries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Participants at the zoo master plan workshop in Augsburg came from seven institutions. Because the participants came from institutions of different sizes, specializations and funding sources there was plenty to discuss. The group of 11 people allowed everybody to get involved and discuss.
On Saturday morning the workshop started with presentations of the process of master planning. After a break, Dr. Barbara Jantschke introduced Zoo Augsburg and gave the group an extensive tour. The park was covered with snow, but it was a sunny day and everybody enjoyed the walk. After lunch, the group started analyzing what they had seen and heard about Zoo Augsburg. Participants had little trouble recognizing Augsburg Zoo's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities from just their 3.5 hours introduction.
The participants realized that the most difficult part of developing a master plan is coming up with a mission and a theme for the zoo. Some had a hard time letting their imaginations run wild, and not letting logistics hamper their creativity. As topics came up, I gave short presentations about visitor behavior, spatial organization and layout of paths in a zoo. After dinner, the participants had time to look at master plan examples from other zoos.
On Sunday morning, we summarized the discussion from the day before and made some conclusions. These led to a mission for Zoo Augsburg and the group discussed design principles that supported the mission. Then, a theme was developed. Two potential themes were discussed and one was rejected as less appropriate in favour of the other. The group discussed potential education opportunities pertaining to the theme. Once a solid concept was established, the participants found that the more it developed, the more it seemed logical and actually solved problems rather than causing them.
Physical layout for a zoo is not an easy task. I addressed many common problems in site layout, especially concerning pathways, with graphic slides. Then, I illustrated a possible spatial organization of the theme on a map of the zoo. The group lively discussed the layout and a story line for the theme. This led to considerations about the actual and desirable animal collection and how to handle the shift. Finally, after a break, a tentative table of contents for a master plan for Zoo Augsburg was developed. The workshop ended with the participants' feedback to the workshop.
Each participant went away with materials on master planning, including notes and checklists about master planing, copies of the graphics shown, examples of master plans from various zoos, and articles pertaining to the topic. Products of the workshop such as flip charts and maps along with some pictures of participants on the site of Zoo Augsburg were distributed to the participants on CD-ROM after the workshop.
Results for Zoo Augsburg
Dr. Barbara Jantschke was quite happy to see a concept develop that was innovative and visionary but, at the same time, economically feasible and flexible enough to allow implementation in little steps. Participants from other institutions brought a fresh view and mind that was not confounded by the existing site and its constraints. Their suggestions for short time improvements and their exploration of new ideas were very appreciated.
At the end of the workshop, participants joked about coming back in a few years to see which parts of the concept were implemented. However, it was clear to everybody that master planning is a long term process that serves long term goals.
Results for participants
In the beginning, there were concerns that small institutions lack funding to hire a professional or spend a great amount of time on developing a master plan. However, as the workshop proceeded it became obvious that the questions raised in the process are the same for small and for large institutions and should be answered in any zoological institution. A master plan creates a vision that is supported by policies, guidelines, and priorities. It guides the development and evolution of the zoo. Having a master plan in place supports a coordinated growth of the zoo’s separate facilities and functions and helps avoid “ad-hoc” development of the zoo. If decisions about the design and development of the zoo are all made with respect to the direction of the master plan, the zoo will likely be a coherent, site-specific, unique institution that fulfills identified goals.
In this workshop participants could see how to be involved in the process of master planning. Knowing about the process also means more effectively working with outside consultants. By understanding the goals and the process of master planning, zoo staff can better communicate to outside professionals and maintain more control over the direction of projects.
Although the discussions often drifted to topics more specific than the one at hand, in the end, all participants walked away with a clearer picture of a master plan. They experienced the process of master planning and appreciated its potentials. Most participants expressed that this workshop was very relevant for their work. They got an idea what it could mean to have a master plan for their institution and how it would be developed. The length of the workshop was just right for everybody.
We have learned that the papers distributed at the workshop were intensively used by participants later on. Following suggestions of several professionals we will prepare these papers for distribution.