Barcelona, Spain | 2018
Conor O’Shea, Aneesha Dharwadker, Yizhen Ding
Ecoregional Zoo promotes awareness of threatened animal and plant species in the Mediterranean Basin through a humane curation of representative species found throughout Barcelona’s native biome.
The following elements combine to provide Europe with a new model for the urban zoo. This new zoo type prioritizes animal welfare, promotes regional ecological awareness, leverages technology for educational opportunities, and expands public space.
Concentration The design distills the twenty-three terrestrial ecoregions of the Mediterranean Basin Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub Biome into landscape stripes and one aquatic zone, creating hyper-natural representations of versions existing in nature. 
Immersion Ecoregional Zoo invites visitors into a range of animal habitats, hybridizing urban flâneuring with the wildlife safari. Elevated walkways, lookout platforms, overlooks, and an underwater tube encourage direct engagement with flora and fauna.
Augmented Reality The expansive natural ranges of many of the animals found throughout the Mediterranean Basin are vastly disproportional to the confines of an urban zoo. Therefore, numerous animals in Ecoregional Zoo are experienced by visitors through augmented reality. This virtual zoo experience occurs across the live backdrop of representative flora, as well as smaller insects, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals that can comfortably dwell in the space provided.
Digital Zoological Education Center The rear glass façade of the new Barcelona de Zoo building slices through the landscape stripes, revealing an abstracted transect of Mediterranean ecoregions. The façade is embedded with an interactive touchscreen display featuring educational infographics, maps, animal holograms, and live tracking of animals in the wild using GPS. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 20% of species in the Mediterranean Basin are threatened with extinction, including 31.9% of amphibians, 17% of reptiles, and 23.4 % of plants. The research facilities, educational technology, and other programming all aim to underscore the urgency of addressing this issue.
Earthen Ribbon The existing sidewalks surrounding the zoo are widened and transformed into a series of circular plazas by an earthen ribbon. This undulating berm encircles the zoo, blocking urban noise, light, and particulate matter, thereby improving life inside for plant and animal species. The berm dips down intermittently to allow the public observe the zoo. It is also punctured with portholes to allow the public to peer in.
 Ecogregions are defined by the Word Wildlife Foundation as “relatively large units of land or water containing a distinct assemblage of natural communities sharing a large majority of species, dynamics, and environmental conditions.” Globally, the WWF identifies 867 terrestrial ecoregions and 14 biomes. Source: World Wildlife Foundation, Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World, August 1, 2012.
AWARDS Finalist & Honorable Mention, Coexist: Rethinking Zoos International Ideas Competition (2018)
The building “zips” together the existing urban grid and the new landscape zones. The new berm edge around the zoo site folds in and out, increasing public space along the sidewalk.
The majority of the building program is organized toward Carrer de Wellington: the zoo administration, multipurpose spaces, and hospital all have easy access to the street and tram. A long strip of public space, with exhibition, cafe, and restaurant modules faces the Ecoregions on the opposite side. A continuous glass wall gives views out to the Mediterranean microcosm. Walking paths bring zoo visitors out from the building to hover over the landscape.