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The Architecture of Keeping Animals: Preservation Responses to Changing Animal Welfare Ideals in Mid-sized American Zoos

By Victoria McCollum

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Beginning in the mid-20th century, most of America’s Zoos began to re-evaluate the spaces which housed their living creatures. As advances in science and technology brought forward new information on animal welfare and care, zoos were soon faced with choices on the treatment of their current building stock. A range of preservation treatments emerged, from abandonment to demolition/new construction. This thesis examines the range of preservation treatments that took place in zoo buildings built prior to 1950 at the Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago, IL), the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens (Cincinnati, OH), the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium (Toledo, OH) and the Philadelphia Zoo (Philadelphia, PA). Revealing the building treatment response of each zoo to the continued changes in animal welfare unveiled that of the five zoos studied, renovation was the most common treatment for each zoo, followed by adaptive reuse. Thus, all zoos chose to simply renovate their buildings to better accommodate animals or adapt buildings for new zoo uses. A case study surveying the changes in each zoos Lion Houses as a response to the changing body of knowledge surrounding keeping large cats found that zoos were making timely changes regarding standards of felid care. While changes were timely, they varied greatly in quality. This represents that responses were largely to the unknowns in research rather than the knowns. Today there is a significant amount of historic building stock still extant in mid sized urban zoos. This information facilitated the discussion of recommendations for future uses of these buildings as animal welfare standards continue to change.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Pages 193
Department Planning, Development, and Preservation
Degree Master of Science (MS)
Language English
University Clemson University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Architecture
  4. open access
  5. United States of America
  6. Zoo and captive wild animals
  7. Zoos
  1. open access