Ragunan Bio Park: A Nature-based update of Indonesia’s oldest zoo
September 6, 2022
Spanning 140 hectares in the middle of a densely built-up district in South Jakarta, Ragunan Zoo is one of the city’s oldest and most popular family attractions with an affordable ticket price of around USD0.25 per person, which has not been increased for many years. Pre-pandemic, the holiday season would see a record of 196,000 visitors in one day1 or around 5 million annually,2 which is more than double the numbers of the 107-hectare Bronx Zoo in New York City,3 for example.
However, this popularity—a prime opportunity to educate the masses about wildlife and Nature—is not yet matched by an update in facilities. Compared to wildlife parks or zoos in other major cities, Ragunan Zoo is in poor condition with outdated exhibits and basic infrastructure. Since it was moved to this location in 1966 (it had been established elsewhere in 1864), the zoo has yet to see major renovations aside from routine upkeep.
“[It] is currently more like a recreational park rather than a conservation and education centre,” said Anton Siura, landscape architect/urban planner of the design that won a state competition in March 2019. The competition was held by the Jakarta government to seek ideas for a much-needed rejuvenation of the city’s beloved zoo.
The winning proposal by SIURA and Studio Sae, titled Ragunan Bio Park: Island of Nature, offers an eco-centric transformation of the hardscaped ‘exhibition’ cages into a sanctuary for wildlife and integrated blue-green city infrastructure.
The proposal sought the expertise of environmental and wildlife conservation specialists, alongside a branding consultant, business planner and transport specialist. “Perhaps the concept we offered was the most realistic in terms of possible execution,” said the late architect Ario Andito in an interview.4 “The trend for zoos around the world is to adopt the concept of biodiversity, where animals are ‘king’ … Ragunan Zoo will likewise carry the concept of animal conservation. It shouldn’t just entertain visitors, but animals’ wellbeing must come first. This is the balance that we have to maintain.”
FROM CAGES TO HABITATS
To improve animal welfare, the master plan is based on bioclimatic zones that mimic animals’ habitats as closely as possible, such as forest canopies, forest floors, wetlands, grasslands and caverns. Their placements have been chosen based on the quality of the existing environment, hence keeping disruptive upgrade works to a minimum. These naturalistic areas will allow animals to be immersed in their environments, where visitors will also be able to learn about the rich variety of plants in context. Natural barriers, such as water streams and site contours/height differences, will be used to limit animals’ contact with people.
NATURE AS FOREGROUND
“The conventional paradigm that merely places Nature as a background needs to be changed,” the team wrote in their proposal. Architecture is envisioned to blend into the background, only making constructions necessary when building shelters, planters for trees or vessels for activity. As massive, closed-off buildings are avoided, the design instead prioritises cut-out patterns, canopies and stilted structures on columns.
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Ragunan Bio Park
Competition winner (First Prize)
Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta
Urban Design Firm
Principal Landscape & Urban Designer
Tomy Arief; Alvin Praditya; Koei Hwe Ciang
Wildlife Conservation Specialist
Adhitya Ridwan Yulianto
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