Civil Engineering Works

Elephant House Zoo Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland

Top view 1 | Top view
The organic roof structure made of wood takes up strong cues from its environment while creating a special atmosphere inside.
Design: The roof of the elephant house becomes part of the landscape with its freely formed shell construction. Its meshed and organic structure picks up on the surrounding forest. Inside, the spotty sunlight makes for a fascinating composition of light and shadows, as if finding its way through leaves in a tree canopy.

Wood: The roof was realized as a cantilevered timber shell made of nailed up cross-laminated timber boards. The boards of the first layer were shaped using centering, with the boards of the second and third layers rotated by 60° each and nailed to the first layer. The third layer featured the templates for the 271 openings which were then cut into the roof in situ. The utility lines, insulation, and sealing were added above the structural system. Sliced veneer boards form the outer shell of the roof structure, lending the elephant house its characteristic silvery appareance through withering. The openings are topped with ETFE pillows which let sunlight through without filtering out the UV components which are important to plant growth.

Energy: The heating is exclusively performed by the ventilation system with either circulating or mixed air and heat recovery.
Curved edge of the roof 2 | Curved edge of the roof
Landscape for elephants 3 | Landscape for elephants
Layered roof construction 4 | Layered roof construction
Centering/Formwork for the construction 5 | Centering/Formwork for the construction
Basic information
Year of Completion |  2014
Investor |  Zoo Zurich (CH)
Architecture |  Markus Schietsch Architekten GmbH, Zürich (CH)
Structural Engineering |  Walt + Galmarini AG, Zurich (CH)
Construction Time |  24 months
Number of floors |  2
Gross floor area |  8 440 m²
Construction Costs (netto) |  50,4 mio. €
Awards |  Ulrich Finsterwalder prize for engineering (2014), Prix Lignum recognition region north (2015), City of Zurich prize for good buildings/ audience award (2016)

Technical aspects
Concept |  Roof structure made with three layers of fully nailed up, three-layered cross-laminated timber boards (240 mm)
Woodworking |  ARGE Holzbau Elefantenpark: Implenia Holzbau, Implenia Schweiz AG, Modernisation & Development, Rümlang (CH) / STRABAG AG, Lindau (DE) / Paul Huber, Lindau (DE)
Origin of Timber, Certification |  Europa
Energy Systems |  Distance heating from existing central wood chips heating plant; rain water recovery; specially developed monitoring system for the wood moisture levels in the timber construction

Energy Efficiency

Floor Plan Floor Plan Cross Section Cross Section Roof Construction Roof Construction

Civil Engineering Works

  • 09Hyère River Road Bridge
  • 17Stuttgart Wood Bridge
  • 27Avisio River Footbridge
  • 44Forest Observation House
  • 52Elephant House Zoo Zurich

Multistorey Buildings

  • 02HoHo Wien
  • 10Building Cooperative Habrico
  • 28Social Housing Via Cenni
  • 45Karantanika Apartments

Residential Buildings

  • 03Stürcherwald House 
  • 11Chalet Chantemerle
  • 29Jesolo Lido Pool Villa
  • 46Scandinavian House

Commercial Use

  • 04Ski Hut Wolf
  • 12Sheep Stable
  • 30Oberholz Mountain Hut
  • 47Youth Hostel Punkl

Office Buildings

  • 01Illwerke Zentrum Montafon
  • 05Wälder Insurance
  • 13Administrative Offices
  • 31LignoAlp Office Building

Refurbishment and Restoration

  • 06Working quarters Josef Weiss
  • 22Freiburger Hof
  • 32Passeggiata dei Castani
  • 49Upgrading of Hotel Terme
  • 50Alpine Barn Apartment

Public Buildings

  • 07Civic Center
  • 08Fire Station Thal
  • 15Passive House School
  • 33Community Center Caltron
  • 51EXPANO Pavilion
  • 57Théâtre Vidy Pavilion

Special Projects

  • 06aLoft in the Barn
  • 34Sasso Nero Mountain Hut
  • 35Veidlerhof
  • 36Tree of Life
  • 48Wooden Interventions