Engineering Earth pp 1191-1222 | Cite as

Engineering Metaphorical Landscapes and the Development of Zoos: The Toronto Case Study*

  • Paul Harpley


The public institution of the zoo has been changing and evolving to meet the dynamic aspirations and needs of its visiting public and managing bodies, and to reflect the diverse habitat needs of animals in various geographic sites. Zoo exhibit design and site architecture have followed a number of directions over the years, ranging through realistic, abstract sculptural, architectonic, romantic, formal, impressionistic, representational and ornamental. The development of the institution of the zoo from its ancient origins and forms to the early western zoos and their evolution from the colonial period to the present are an area of study only now being documented. Only from the study of this ancient and contemporary history of zoos can we understand the current evolution of the institution and see clearly its future. We see today a certain urgency for better understanding connections between humans and nature. Relationships between human culture, nature, wilderness and conservation and our view of the environment are fundamental to our daily lives. Many of the modern zoo exhibit design initiatives can be considered megaengineering projects by virtue of their large size and cost, and the ancient history of the zoo institutions in various forms has always been of a dynamic and large scale. The modern period has seen the evolution of the zoo to the point of institutions like Toronto Zoo which first opened to the public in August 1974. It was one of the largest zoos on one site, and the first fully zoogeographically organized large zoo in the world. With an area at 710 acres (287 ha), and only 340 acres (137 ha) being intensively developed, the rest of the site is part a wild urban forest and wildlife refuge, now part of the famous Rouge Park, the largest urban wilderness park in Canada. The current Toronto Zoo replaced an old colonial city zoo called the Riverdale Zoo on another site. The Toronto Zoo 35 year anniversary has arrived in 2009, and over this time it has quietly been redeveloping and re-envisioning itself to serve its evolving public. Past and contemporary landscape mega projects at the Toronto Zoo, the African Savanna, Gorilla Rainforest and Tundra Trek are reviewed in the context of the discourse of Engineering Earth. Also related perspectives of zoos as creations of metaphorical landscapes of place and sites of future nature recreation and conservation of habitats are explored.


Wild Animal Polar Bear Termite Mound Zoological Garden Future Nature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Director of the Zephyr Society of Lake SimcoeSutton WestCanada

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