Creating Happy Places…

Sometimes we forget why we do what we do.  An article about Jane Goodall’s new primate exhibit in Scotland reminded me.  In response to outcry against primates in captivity (notably by singer Morissey), she states:  

“In an ideal world chimpanzees and monkeys would be out in the wild as they were intended to be. But in the real world, there are not so many places like that and they are getting smaller all the time.

The choice is between living in wonderful facilities like these where they are probably better off or living the wild in an area like Budongo, where one in six gets caught in a wire snare, and countries like Congo, where chimpanzees, monkeys and gorillas are shot for food commercially. If I were a chimpanzee, I know what I would choose.”

Powerful words that reminds me that we’re not just creating memories for parents and children, but also providing a safe, enjoyable home for many of the world’s displaced creatures. 

And speaking of those memories, one San Diego Zoo visitor editorialized his recent experience at the Zoo, reminding us that, yes, zoos are about conservation and preservation, but sometimes we focus a bit too much on this aspect.

What does this mean to designers?  I think it means we need to focus on a celebration of the critters who live in the homes we build. 

Sometimes this means working with education departments to convince them that heavy messages aren’t always the answer.  Sometimes this means bringing entertainment into an exhibit.  Sometimes this means making architecture less of a focus.  Sometimes this means just making an exhibit about pure fun. 

I hate to beat a dead horse (and, really, who does love doing that?), our job is to make animals interesting and alluring.  Our guests need to walk away feeling empathy, feeling connection.  Yes, facts are great, and knowledge is power.  Call me jaded, but I’ll be happy if one of those kids (or, hey, even better, one of those adults) walks out of an exhibit saying, Man, those guys are cool!

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