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hile zoos used to be about the sheer display of animals, most have now

developed an awareness of their specific needs. Today we know that

elephants, for example, need water basins, sand baths, mud lounges,
diversely designed enclosures, trees and chafing areas. All this is
offered by the new Kaeng Krachan elephant park in Zurich Zoo. With
11,000 square meters, it is not only six times as large as the previously
demolished plant from the 1970s, but also meets today's standards of
animal husbandry.

The new enclosure was designed by Markus Schietsch Architekten in

collaboration with Lorenz Eugster Landschaftsarchitekten, both from
Zurich. Together, they won the 2008 competition. In the implementation
they received support from the engineering firm Walt and Galmarini, also
from Zurich. Modeled after the Thai Kaeng Krachan National Park, the
planners created a diversified home for Asian elephants, which should
come as close as possible to the natural habitat of the pachyderms. It
lies at the foot of a rocky edge of the terrain and is designed with
indentations and bulges so that it can not be overlooked as a whole.

The heart of the park is the elephant house for the winter stay and the
care of the animals. With its organic form, it blends harmoniously into the
landscaped landscape. The planting seems to go seamlessly from
outside to inside, blurring the boundaries between them. The building is
erected as a ring-shaped reinforced concrete structure with a diameter
of 80 meters and spanned by a flat, cantilevered wooden dome. Like an
oversized turtle, it covers an area of around 6,000 square meters at a
height of 18 meters. The approximately football field-sized roof is
supported by a filigree concrete construction - no disturbing pillars
obstruct the view inside the house. 271 skylights made of ETFE foil
cushions provide plenty of daylight and at the same time create a mood
of light reminiscent of the canopy of a forest.

On their way under tropical trees visitors get an insight into the life of
elephants. At different stations, the animals can be observed. So there is
a waterfall and a clay cave. Particularly spectacular is the underwater
station: Here you can watch the elephant through glass panes while
swimming in a basin up to four meters deep. A good view of the entire
enclosure is provided by the panoramic platform in the two-story lodge,
which also houses a restaurant serving Thai food.

In the northern part of the building are the administrative rooms, but also
stables with a quarantine station and the cops' enclosure. He is the only
part of the house with a basement. Underground is the technical center,
which invisibly provides visitors with air conditioning, ventilation,
electricity and water treatment. Heating is provided by the district heating
network with a central woodchip heating system in the zoo. The
rainwater is collected from the roof and used for irrigation near the
ground, for sand moistening, for dedusting the plants and for pelvic

top, roof
The 1,500-ton roof is designed as a double-curved wooden shell. It rests
on a 270 meter long, prestressed ring beam, which absorbs the
horizontal forces. The load transfer is characterized by the lamellar,
constantly changing façade structure, which adjoins the edge of the roof
like an organically shaped strip. All the structural elements of the roof
were developed using a parametric design process based on a 3D
computer program, without which the dome construction would not have
been possible. A 1: 200 scale roof model served as the basis for the
static calculations; later a roof cutout in the scale 1: 1 was built with the
complete structure including seals and skylights.

In order to build the dome, a scaffolding had to be erected first. With his
help, frames were measured to a negative shell of the future roof shape
with millimeter precision. Over these frames, 600 three-layer boards with
different cuts were joined in three layers to form the roof. For reasons of
stability, the first layer of the plate was introduced over the entire
surface; in the second and third layers the skimmers were already cut
out. When all three layers were positioned on the roof, they were nailed
together with about 500,000 nails. To the top, an installation and an
insulation level complete the roof construction, which is just under 1.60
meters high.

At about 35 percent, the skylights made from UV-permeable ETFE foil

cushions occupy around one third of the roof area. In doing so, they
ensure a sufficient amount of daylight, which is necessary for natural
plant growth. Their arrangement was made according to the static
requirements of the shell model. Edge ribs placed around the cutouts
close off the openings of the skylights. In order to shorten the assembly
time on the construction site, the aluminum profile frames of the 271
skylights had previously been pre-cut and all cutouts for seals and
fastening elements had been incorporated in the factory. To improve
thermal protection, the aluminum frames were given a thermally
insulated cover, the thermal bridges prevents and minimizes the
formation of condensation at the interfaces between wooden structure
and aluminum frame.

The foil cushions have a high thermal insulating effect and, because of
their low weight, they require no special static measures. Together with
the sealing layer on the wooden roof, its uppermost layer forms the
water-bearing layer. A special coating ensures that they clean
themselves of dirt from weathering. In order to be able to withstand
severe hailstorms, the standard three-layer cushions have been
provided with a further air layer and a hail protection film. The foil
cushions were also finished welded and with suitable fixing fittings to the
construction site. Here they were connected to the air supply. The
necessary overpressure of 250 Pascal between the individual layers of
film and the hail protection film is stabilized by a fully automatic low-
pressure system. Its supply lines were laid in advance in the installation
level of the roof. To protect the pillows against snow loads in winter, the
overpressure can be increased up to 800 Pascals.

Prefabricated triple-layer panels were bent on-site into their form and nailed
up. The openings were cut out on-site from the massive wooden shell. The
continuously changing façade structure consists of lamellas that seemingly
grow up to the edge of the roof as an organically shaped band indicating the
loadbearing areas.
The roof of the elephant house consists of an innovative,
cantilever wooden structure with a diameter of 85m in which
271 openings are irregularly arranged to let in daylight. The
plywood shell structure includes a circumferential ringwall
opening consisting of post-tensioned concrete that
connects the few local abutments with each other. As a
result, the prestressed ringwall absorbs the forces from the
shell and transfers them into the foundation