biophilic travels: an immersive and authentic wildlife park
in biophilic travels
A wildlife park should be a place that celebrates the diversity of life and the richness of nature. Yet too often there isn’t much wilderness left and these spaces end up feeling very artificial and organized rather than nature-like and adventurous.
Today we’re touring a wildlife park I recently visited, a park where I noticed an interesting design attitude and many elements that successfully recreate the experience of being in nature; all worth noting as inspirations for biophilic design projects!
care and respect
To begin with, animal wellness is taken into close consideration at Bioparc Valencia. The space is designed to reproduce authentic natural habitats and different species live together in large areas like they do in nature.
Signboards throughout the park don’t just point out curiosities about the animals, they also remind of the challenges wild animals are facing due to climate change, and educate visitors about respectful behaviours towards the natural world in a fun and engaging way (using cute illustrations and a very friendly language that kids would find interesting as well).
Care and respect are essential attitudes to truly celebrate nature through design. Through careful and respectful design, a wildlife park becomes something more than a showcase; it becomes a place that truly brings people closer to nature and an occasion to highlight how our daily actions have an impact on ecosystems on the other side of the planet.
the experience of the space
Despite being located in the middle of a bustling city, the entire park is designed to feel like an immersion in nature.
Wherever it’s safe, walking paths for visitors are integrated seamlessly with the areas where animals live, giving a unique sense of closeness and adventure. Pathways, balustrades and all architectural elements are made with raw and seemingly improvised materials that create an authentic experience. The pathways connecting different areas of the park are immersed in greenery and often create a sense of anticipation and mystery that adds to the experience. Open areas alternate with more secluded refuge-like spots, zoning the space while making the visit more dynamic. The addition of thrilling apparent risk features restates the adventurous feeling of exploring real wilderness.
Reproduced features (like faux stone blocks or tree trunks) look very realistic and are used right next to real natural materials. This makes the overall result feel genuine, and visitors are left wondering what is real and what is a reproduction (a good sign from a design perspective!)
Rich and diverse, the space features a cohesive yet intricate mix of greenery, ponds and waterfalls, caves, wildlife… It feels like actually being in wild nature, with the stimulating sensory mix of sounds, movements, lights and shadows that characterize the natural world.
applying learnings to urban design
Just like many wildlife parks, the majority of our cities have little to no connection with the natural world. And even when they incorporate greenery, that often feels almost forced rather than authentic.
Taking inspiration from this biophilic travel, why not use more raw and natural materials in cities? Why not design pathways as intriguing walks immersed in nature that double as habitats for non-human life? Why not conceive cities as engaging and stimulating environments?
In short, why not bring cities closer to nature and nature closer to cities? Urban environments are designed spaces so we can transition to more biophilic cities!
Design: Rain Forest Valencia