Odense Zoo 1994 – 1996. A new beginning

Gaia design was established as a Danish company in 1994. The idea and inspiration was a result of living and working in in one of the most exciting zoos in Europe: The Burger Zoo in Holland.

Odense Zoo became Gaia designs most important client because here we made all the inevitable errors, but also became a part of an indisputable success.

The seventies and eighties was not a great time for European zoological gardens. Economy was growing fast all over, but so were expectations. Zoos and amusement parks all over did not meet people’s expectations and had to close down or as in Odense change the whole concept.

In 1994 the Zoo was expanded from 13.000m2 to 85.000m2. The number of visitors a little more than 100.000. Now with more space, a new manager and important support from the municipality it was the time for a new concept – a Masterplan.

Everything done in a zoo has to happen in close cooperation with zoo staff and the manager. That was also the case when Gaia design in 1995 made a Masterplan model. The model was an important inspiration for the following years, but it was also the cause of a fatal error: The decision not to develop a main flow for visitors.

That error became a problem impossible to solve later and still today I think I failed because my arguments for making the main flow at the time were not good enough.

In 1996 Gaia design made its first house inhabited by strange residents: The Ring-tailed lemur. That would be the very first animal exhibit to meet visitors and that has a point. It has to be a positive experience to visitors. A group of social, active friendly looking animals like the lemur is perfect.