The Unzoo Concept


This is The Unzoo; when you experience nature as it is meant to be. Ironically our use of technology has caged us from our true nature.

Basically; don't be a zoo-human!

The unzoo alternative was a concept that developed from thinking about new ways to design zoos.  (The Unzoo Alternative, Jon Coe, Jon Coe Design P/L, Ray Mendez, Work As Play, 5 April 2005)
Some interesting words come into play in the Unzoo document, such as the “technology of zoos”, “as constant and contrary reminders of  human domination over nature”. So the Unzoo Alternative is a conservation and design driven concept, a tool for change in reclaiming the true nature of things.



For me, Unzoo is a concept that can go beyond the redesign of animal zoos to dealing with “"the human zoo". However, dealing with the human zoo is much more complex, and it mostly stems from the theme of human domination over nature. The sad thing is in doing so we dominate ourselves as well (self caging). Apply this to every facet of our modern life and you will see it. It’s a bit like the classic movie scene in ‘The Matrix” where  people start to click onto the fact that they are not living a real life, they are caged by their own technology.


You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes...

So am I an anti technology hippie? No so much. I just think the typical use of technology to “dominate nature” is flawed and we need to change that paradigm to “working with” nature. It’s a pretty broad concept with loads of applicability.

The Unzoo Alternative then goes on to describe how to create an “unzoo”. While the specifics are not particularly applicable to the human zoo - the approach is. They demonstrate a beautiful merging of technology use for enhancing natural design. That is the lesson for us on how to unzoo the human zoo. 

That leads me to another key article for this post (by Jon Coe again); “Third Generation Conservation; Accommodating Wildlife in Our Daily Lives”. This one is about integration of Unzoo into human society, and therefore gets closer to talking about the Human Unzoo. It talks about three generations of conservation;
  1. preserving, guarding, protecting
  2. restoration
  3. accommodation
This last concept bridges the previous two and creates a new model that blurs the distinction between people space and animal space, removing the compartmentalization of nature vs. civilisation. So instead we have “Deep Green Design’, and this great quote:
“Ultimately the goal of sustainable landscapes” (and architecture) “is the transformation of culture  - the taming of technology, the emergence of a new environmental ethic, a new measure of life quality, and a substantially broadened sense of community including not only humans, but all life”. (R Thayer, 1994, Grey World, Green Heart)
I would go further and apply the Unzoo from the human perspective as well. Who has evolved to sit at a desk looking at a computer all day after all? And habitat is just one aspect explore; for example, books such as “Change Your Body, Change The World” shows us there are other ways to redesign our zoo culture, that can start from the individual. From Desmond Morris to Joe Durant, there is plenty of thinking that has already been done, and plenty more to do…

The Unzoo-You concept is one that integrates the Unzoo Alternative into addressing the Human Zoo Syndrome. It’s a mindset for re-evolution by design.