Join our zoo community

Inclusivity in Zoo Design

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by AKhan, 18 Dec 2020.

  1. AKhan

    AKhan Member

    Joined:
    26 Jan 2017
    Posts:
    10
    Location:
    Houston
    My name is Asad, and I am a cross-disciplinary design student at Parsons studying to be a zoo designer. There is not much existing literature on the subject of inclusive design in the zoo, so I have written a paper on the topic.

    I would appreciate any feedback on this work. I am inviting you to open up the conversation on this matter or simply to provide criticism and suggestions. I would like to refine this text into a usable and established brief on considerations of inclusivity in zoo design.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: 20 Dec 2020
  2. Jana

    Jana Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Feb 2008
    Posts:
    1,257
    Location:
    Czech republic
    What is meaning of "inclusive design"? Is it equivalent to a design thats in harmony with surrounding architecture and terrain? Or?
     
  3. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Sep 2019
    Posts:
    6,422
    Location:
    Brazil
    I had a read through this and it is "inclusivity" in the organization of zoos in quite a woke sense.
     
  4. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Sep 2019
    Posts:
    6,422
    Location:
    Brazil

    It is well written Asad but my constructive criticism of this is more that a lot of this comes across as very common sense and doesn't particularly need to be conveyed using woke language / talking points.

    Be culturally sensitive and don't create things in tacky / bad taste, be mindful that zoos were a product of colonialism from ancient times until the first half of the 20th century, pay your staff fair wages for their labour, have access and facilities for disabled and blind visitors, do not have extortionate entrance prices, seek for greater community engagement.

    Well, yes.... I mean all of these things are either just obvious or common sense objectives that should be strived for aren't they ? :confused:

    So what is the need to dress them up in woke language and ideology. o_O

    The part about "Mango" the ball python having an "identity" sits a little bit uneasy with me too. It seems that "identity" is quite the buzzword at the moment in a lot of senses and mainly in the political sense.

    By "identity" do you mean that the python has a temperament, disposition, a set of stressors that may aggravate it, stimulus that may calm it and traits that could be particular to it and in a sense a "personality"?

    Then, yes, most vertebrate animals do indeed have these but an "identity" (and particularly in the political sense) ? I don't really think so.
     
    Last edited: 18 Dec 2020
    Wyman and AKhan like this.
  5. Jana

    Jana Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Feb 2008
    Posts:
    1,257
    Location:
    Czech republic
    So I opened the attached file and after reading the first few lines, I think I will not comment anymore.
     
    Batto, Wyman and PossumRoach like this.
  6. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Sep 2019
    Posts:
    6,422
    Location:
    Brazil
    Why ?

    He is asking for constructive criticism, so why not comment constructively?
     
    AKhan likes this.
  7. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    23 Jan 2008
    Posts:
    3,594
    Location:
    New York, USA
    Hmmm, I have many responses to this.
    First, who at Parsons has any expertise to be teaching you zoo design?

    Second, this paper is fine as a first draft to get your thinking down on paper. It is the easy part. Now you need to think harder, dig deeper, ask more difficult questions and get some real-world grounding.

    The Museum field has been wrestling with their colonial foundations and assumptions for quite some time and much work has been done examining that and exploring how museums might rectify problems identified. Look into that and see what it adds to your thinking and what you have to add to the field

    Find out how zoo design is actually done, who makes the decisions and how. You are mistaken that zoo design is mostly done by older white men. All of my women colleagues would see that as another man dismissing their efforts.

    Know that decisions come from zoo directors, zoo boards , zoo curators and donors. Guest services staff, facilities management directors, development directors and even, on occasion, horticulturists participate.The designers work with them to deliver the product they want. If you want to see change in zoo design start with the people who have the power. Trust me, it is not the designer.

    Consider how zoo design differs from other design fields. A publication may reinvent itself with each issue. A fashion house with each season. But when you are designing an exhibit that will take several years from design to opening and cost millions of dollars it is unrealistic to get too trendy. By the time that mega-project is open the zoo visitors whose opinions you solicited will all be spending their time at kid's soccer practice and will have let their zoo memberships lapse. And a $20million hippo exhibit cannot so easily be altered because the newly transferred animal prefers the shallower pool that the three other hippos use to the deeper one that is available.

    You seem to accept the use of local cultural representations in exhibits of other regions but require that some representative of that culture (and who decides who speaks for us?) be consulted. Why do you accept this approach at all?

    You suggest that designers pick which clients meet their ethical goals and refuse all other work. Do you have reason to believe that there is so much zoo design work out there that you can support a business in that way? Are your employees not also to be protected from furloughs and downsizing because you only find 1 ethically approved client every five years?

    In fact, you show no understanding of how businesses survive financially. Neither zoo design firms nor zoos. Hours, admission price, concession prices, etc. get decided to fund the operation. You may push for more access but you can't simply pretend that funding doesn't matter. The Coronavirus shut-downs' effect on zoos should make it abundantly clear that without sufficient income zoos die.

    I see you urge zoo designers to create outreach programs to work with those who cannot get transportation to the zoo. That is not part of a zoo designer's work. So you need to investigate what zoo designers actually do and what everyone else at the zoo does.

    All of what you write about the zoo's community neglects the diversity of that group. Are we talking about visitors? Potential visitors? Neighbors? Within each of these large groups there is wide diversity of race, of education, of economic success, of ability, of national/cultural background. You cannot foster inclusivity by reducing "the community" to a faceless monolith. You are committing the same sin of which you accuse the zoo but with niftier verbiage.

    If "the community" votes on which animals the zoo is to have then what becomes of in situ conservation? What becomes of conservation education at the zoo? Should school children decide whether or not they want to study math? Should the zoo be all lions all the time with no other animals because that it the local football team's mascot? Should an Arctic exploration vessel be named Boaty McBoatface?

    Now to inclusivity: have you looked into the moves zoos are making to better serve different audiences? AZA has a standing committee that looks at nothing else. Familiarize yourself with what is being done so that you may identify what still needs to be done and what the challenges are to realizing these goals. Or don't title this paper a survey. I agree with @Onychorhynchus coronatus that
    the use throughout the paper of the term "inclusivity" is confusing at best. You would do well to define what you mean and then focus on that if you want to talk about it at all

    So... nice draft. All easy and superficial stuff. Now dig deeper, do your research and reflect on what you want to accomplish. And see if you can talk with Vik Dewan of the Philadelphia Zoo. He'll open your eyes to the very work you are interested in.



     
    Last edited: 18 Dec 2020
    MRJ, TinoPup, CGSwans and 15 others like this.
  8. PossumRoach

    PossumRoach Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    23 Feb 2018
    Posts:
    960
    Location:
    somewhere out there
    I'm not going to speak on Jana's behalf but I am holding back from using ad hominem on Mr. Khan.
     
    Batto likes this.
  9. dinosauria

    dinosauria Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    31 Aug 2020
    Posts:
    414
    Location:
    Earth
    Honestly while this paper is nice, it could just use more depth in general. More explaining of concepts like identities (not sure what that has to do with Mango), maybe contact more zoo workers/people in management/zookeepers, and clarify what the experiment itself means.

    And I do think that while some of the concepts in here are known to us, not everybody is going to be doing that and the last thing most people think of zoos as is "a product of colonialism", and you are completely right about zoos not typically acknowledging this.
     
    AKhan and CheeseChameleon2007 like this.
  10. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    23 Jan 2008
    Posts:
    3,594
    Location:
    New York, USA
    And I'll add, as an older white man designer, the border around the pages and the over-sized decorative font comes across as unprofessional, as though, lacking substance you counted on flash. It adds nothing (not to mention the numerous blank pages. Think of your reader!)
     
    Last edited: 18 Dec 2020
    TinoPup, Wyman, AKhan and 3 others like this.
  11. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Sep 2019
    Posts:
    6,422
    Location:
    Brazil
    The thing is he explicitly came here for a discussion and for constructive criticism so why not discuss and critique ?
     
    Cat-Man, AKhan and dinosauria like this.
  12. AKhan

    AKhan Member

    Joined:
    26 Jan 2017
    Posts:
    10
    Location:
    Houston
    Thank you all so much for your varied and extremely insightful feedback! This has been really helpful in finding what areas need the most improvement. I wouldn't have known what research to prioritize without your help. I am working on a new draft and will be back for more critique :)
     
  13. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Sep 2013
    Posts:
    2,358
    Location:
    Baltic Sea - no more
    Out of personal interest: why do you want to be a zoo designer? And what is your motivation to write such a paper?
     
  14. Westcoastperson

    Westcoastperson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    24 Mar 2020
    Posts:
    873
    Location:
    -18.529211, -70.249941
    sorry, I didn't mention this sooner but I would maybe include a few more examples of people with physical disabilities in zoos. If zoos neglect ramps for people who are in wheelchairs or have crutches, then people with these disabilities will most likely take their families elsewhere. Or exhibits that are too loud and crowded could cause sensory overload for people with mental disabilities. I know you talked about exhibits for the people with impaired vision but maybe try to include as many disabilities as to properly outline a good medium for zoo exhibits.
     
    TinoPup, AKhan and red river hog like this.
  15. Ursus

    Ursus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    25 Mar 2018
    Posts:
    258
    Location:
    Netherlands
    my biggest feedback would be, use a different font and letter size. Right now it reads to me a bit unpleasant and really the pages are quite short making me scroll a lot. Besides that I kind of get some feeling that the text size is this large to make it seem like the whole paper has a lot of pages while if you were to write in let's say Arial 12 it wouldn't be as long. There's also some awkward amount of empty pages. Neither is there any textual context given to most imagery. I would suggest working on that.

    The following text I quote from your paper;

    The following images are documentation of some of the process and the outcome, a couple of which feature the lovely lady herself enjoying the new hide, preferring it over her old one

    I don't think any serious paper would refer to a snake as a ''lovely lady''

    I don't know how far you want to see this paper as a serious kind of research, but in its current state I would not really perceive it as a serious research paper.


    I have to say, I do like your idea of writing a paper and am very curious to what a final product would look like.
     
    PossumRoach and AKhan like this.
  16. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    25,313
    Location:
    tomorrow
    When I first read it, back when it was first posted, I initially thought my computer was lagging on those blank pages. Then I realised that the paper is just bloated out by using empty space - so many blank pages!

    @Zooplantman summed up most of what I would have said about the paper so I don't need to repeat any of it. The author seems to have no idea of how businesses, especially zoos, work; and no idea of what a zoo designer is or does.
     
    MRJ, PossumRoach and Batto like this.
  17. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    25,313
    Location:
    tomorrow
    Just for fun I copied the text over to a document and changed the font as suggested - it came out at six pages long! Obviously it would be longer with title spacing and a couple of pages for the addition of the photos and diagrams, but still a dramatic difference. I see also that there are only nine references listed for the paper, and they are "interesting" choices.
     
    Ursus likes this.
  18. AKhan

    AKhan Member

    Joined:
    26 Jan 2017
    Posts:
    10
    Location:
    Houston
    It was originally meant to be a small booklet, not a paper, for a design assignment, hence the oversized font and use of blank pages. I do plan to turn it into a paper though, so this is all helpful feedback.

    I have met and been instructed by many "zoo designers" that focus on various aspects of zoos, such as typography or signage, lighting, exhibit design, masterplanning, etc. They all refer to themselves as zoo designers. This is where my conception of what a zoo designer is and does stems from.

    As far as businesses go, yes, I would love to -- and need to -- learn more. However, this was more an acknowledgement of what a designer can do to ameliorate inclusivity issues from a design perspective, not necessarily the specifics of the finances involved. I will add more on this in future iterations.

    I have wanted to be a zoo designer for as long as I can remember. It's a unique blend of my interests in animals, art, and design. I approached this topic because, regardless of feasibility issues, it is glaringly obvious that zoos in their current states are lagging behind in these concerns.
     
    TinoPup and amur leopard like this.
  19. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Sep 2013
    Posts:
    2,358
    Location:
    Baltic Sea - no more
    Thanks for your reply. So given your interest, why haven't you posted anything since joining in 2017? And I think you haven't answered an interesting question:
    I disagree. Furthermore, based on the ideas and ideology presented in the paper, I wouldn't hire you as zoo designer for my zoo.
     
    PossumRoach likes this.
  20. AKhan

    AKhan Member

    Joined:
    26 Jan 2017
    Posts:
    10
    Location:
    Houston
    To answer @Zooplantman's question, @Batto, I have been blessed enough to take courses with two professors who are zoo designers, as well as many other designers and researchers dealing with animal design. Unfortunately I am unaware of any zoo design specific academic programs, but if you attended a zoo design academy, please do let me know so that I may apply.
    We can burn that bridge when you have a zoo to hire zoo designers for.
     
    TinoPup likes this.