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On the brink. Enjoy the moment as you look out across Life Garden or dare to step onto the path and start your journey into the unknown.
On the brink. Enjoy the moment as you look out across Life Garden or dare to step onto the path and start your journey into the unknown.

Zoo in transition, city in transition. A transformation that changes behavioural patterns in the centre of Antwerp.
Zoo in transition, city in transition. A transformation that changes behavioural patterns in the centre of Antwerp.

Once the zoo wall is down... Another world awaits a hundred metres from the bustling city, a world where nature leads its own life.
Once the zoo wall is down... Another world awaits a hundred metres from the bustling city, a world where nature leads its own life.

Same nature, different meetings. A reversed experience: each of the doors gives a different view of the surroundings, seen from the place where animals used to be kept in captivity.
Same nature, different meetings. A reversed experience: each of the doors gives a different view of the surroundings, seen from the place where animals used to be kept in captivity.

Temporary disconnection. The transition between places full of light and life via darkness and emptiness recalls the former zoo-dwellers.
Temporary disconnection. The transition between places full of light and life via darkness and emptiness recalls the former zoo-dwellers.

The local community and business activities bring Life Garden to life. The former monkey house is now used to grow hops for brewing local beer.
The local community and business activities bring Life Garden to life. The former monkey house is now used to grow hops for brewing local beer.






PROJECTINDEX
 
LIFE GARDEN
Academie voor Architectuur en Stedenbouw - Tilburg
ARCHITECTURE

An attempt to rediscover a place for meeting nature in the centre of a modern city.
Antwerp Zoo was the site chosen for developing a pilot for Life Garden. The design presents a domain in the city where plant and animal life, liberated from direct human pressure, can be found in its natural state. This place offers a welter of opportunities to come into contact with the living world through recreation, cultivation and contemplation.
This sets Life Garden apart from the customary green space. Normally, life is subjected to the restrictions of the green space available. Visitors look for nature and meeting places in public gardens, botanical gardens and zoological gardens. There they find perfectly mown grass, specially planted tree species and caged animals.
The current Hortus Conclusus policy erases the Zoo from the Antwerp cityscape. Like other zoos hemmed in by densely populated urban areas, there is no way they can expand. Add to this the changing ethic regarding wild animals in captivity. It all leads to the inevitable: it won’t be long before the city zoo as we know it will no longer exist. What if non-indigenous animals were ultimately to leave city zoos for better destinations such as reservations for wild animals? This last-named fact is the springboard for this project.
An initial step is to catalyse change. Bit by bit the former zoo opens up to the city. Its fences are removed. The buildings on the edge become a means of communication. This outermost layer generates as much profit as the entire former zoo because it is where everyone likes to work or do research. The zoo’s core and grounds are freed from facilities in unnatural materials at ground level. Concrete paths gradually vanish amidst plant growth. Small canals currently dry and scattered converge in an active water system. Plant life takes over the freed space and begins to blossom. Permacultural and forestry principles accelerate this process and lay the foundations for a balanced and self-sufficient ecosystem.
The second step concentrates on reconnection. For example, former animal pavilions become reused and landscapes adapted on the strength of their inherent qualities. The waste-free cultivation of hops and a brewery become one with the natural surroundings. A string of design interventions stitch together former animal enclosures into a cohesive route.
All this allows you to step out of the city and into another world. You can have a moment to yourself, study a flock of nesting birds that have finally found refuge in the city or simply enjoy a glass of freshly brewed beer. Life Garden enables everyone to garner their own meaningful experience and come to understand the abundance of life around them.