Copenhagen Zoo

• Opened in 1859
• Area: 11 hectares
• Number of animals: More than 4,000


• Animal hospital constructed in 1987
• Flamingo aviary in 2010
• ZOOlab in 2020

In Copenhagen Zoo’s new educational centre, the whole family can get closer to the world of animals.

When the zoo opened in 1859, it was much smaller, and the exhibits were dominated by birds, since the founder, Niels Kjærbølling, was a passionate ornithologist. Since then, it has grown larger and larger – both in size and in terms of the variety of animals. Today the zoo covers 11 hectares, including the part located in Søndermarken Park, and houses more than 4,000 animals.

Over the years, the zoo’s collection of world-class architecture has been expanded by many new buildings and refurbishments, and with ZOOlab, another dimension has been added to the beautiful and vibrant park. Here, architecture and nature, together with modern forms of dissemination and pedagogy, make young generations smarter about the diverse world of animals.

Residents welcome visitors

At the building’s entrance, the leafcutter ants act as hosts. They are ZOOlab’s permanent residents and guide the visitors further into the building, where the big ant colony can be found, along with a discovery bookcase. In the bookcase, visitors can scan insect flour, a lion skull or a beetle’s air intake to activate a series of illustrations that tell them about the breathing, metabolism and growth of invertebrates. The other part of ZOOlab is home to the building’s flagship animal, the cockroach. In this section you can cut out, fold and colour in your own cockroach. You can then use it to create a stop-motion video in a natural environment with leaves and branches, while a giant model of a cockroach lets you study the smallest details of this sophisticated insect. Last but not least, a film and sound backdrop and a large terrarium filled with cockroaches invite visitors one step closer. 

Modern experiences in a historic zoo

For architect Claus Pryds, who designed the new ZOOlab, the building reflects both the historic surroundings and the lovely parks around it:

“The new ZOOlab is part of a diverse context in a zoo with a long tradition, and is designed to offer even more experiences and knowledge to the younger generations. The building conforms to the style and logic of the rest of the zoo, while still marking itself out as a unique place. With a consistent architectural look based on natural materials and a poetic interpretation of the forest as a habitat, the project’s ambition is to create a robust setting for the centre’s many activities.”

The black-clad building has also been praised by reviewers, who highlight its ability to complement and refer to the architecture of the rest of the garden, such as the iconic ZOO tower, while adding a new touch to its surroundings.

Knowledge through play

Jørgen Nielsen, Director of Copenhagen Zoo, is also excited about the new ways of teaching visitors about animals and nature: “One of the main ways we try to make sure visitors have a good time in the zoo is that they leave with even more knowledge about nature and animals than when they came. The new ZOOlab gives us another colour on our palette and another opportunity to combine play, learning and fascination. Because the setting is so inviting, visitors are almost drawn in here, and that enhances the experience,” says Executive Director Jørgen Nielsen.

Jens Kann-Rasmussen, chair of VILLUM FONDEN, is pleased that the new ZOOlab gives visitors yet another place to study nature closely: “VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN’s collaboration with Copenhagen Zoo started in 1987 with
the construction of the animal hospital, and continued in 2010 with the flamingo aviary. In the new ZOOlab, the whole family can get acquainted with the fascinating life of animals. And the beautiful building elegantly provides space for reflection, discovery and daylight.”