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Orientarium dach; Orientarium dach;

Orientarium, Łódź

Engineering the Orientarium: creating a thriving South East Asian zoo - in the middle of Poland

As conservation and education facilities, contemporary zoos strive to provide an immersive experience, offering visitors the chance to observe and learn about animal and plant species – in their own habitat. This was the starting point for the upgrade and extension work undertaken by the zoo in Łódź, Poland’s third largest city. But with average sub-zero temperatures in winter, designing a large, tropical sanctuary catering for the needs of South East Asian flora and fauna was always going to pose a challenge.

Arup and Szlachcic Architects worked together with contractor Mosty Łódź on the Orientarium, a new 35,800 m2 multi-purpose habitat encompassing three pavilions and different outdoor enclosures.

With around 1,5 million visitors expected every year, the biggest challenge for this project was delivering a fit-for-purpose home for 30 different species with very exacting temperature and humidity requirements, all while ensuring a comfortable visitor experience - and optimising costs.

A bamboo-inspired design greets visitors in the entrance hall, which is completed with an adjacent educational exhibition space, restaurant and retail area. Visitors are then taken through different indoor and outdoor enclosures providing an immersive experience into different ecosystems with a range of rest and play areas including a paddling pool, and a variety of saltwater tanks for sharks, coral reefs and different fish species.

Project Summary

35,800 m² area



Zoo engineering: high-performance design meets cost optimisation

Modelled on Wroclaw’s successful Africanarium, the Orientarium hosts over 30 different South East Asian animal species, including elephants, clouded leopards, sharks and orangutans, as well as featuring aviaries throughout. A series of viewing galleries and skywalks take visitors through the outdoor enclosures, where animals will stay during the relatively warmer summer months. Glass partitions and safety nets ensure safety while allowing visitors a sense of immediacy.

Arup was involved from inception to delivery providing several engineering services including structural, mechanical, electrical and public health design. Our engineers provided concept and detailed design, building permits as well ‘author’s supervision’ under Polish code.

We delivered the entire project in BIM to facilitate collaboration and productivity to develop highly accurate models for this demanding project.

Maintaining stable temperature and humidity conditions for animals and plants throughout was one of the key drivers for this project. Our engineers designed an air mist delivery system to ensure humidity levels remain at around 70% throughout the property. Operational systems have similarly been designed to ensure the smooth running of the different enclosures and habitats throughout the Orientarium at all times.

Working closely with zoo consultants, we designed a resilient power and heat supply system for the fish tanks' Life Support Systems (LSS) – since aquariums must meet extremely specific conditions for the different species to thrive.

We’ve created unique design solutions to deliver this specialist tropical flora and fauna habitat in the middle of Poland while optimising costs. ”

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Delicate ecosystem: unique structural design solutions

The elephant pavilion features some unique design solutions including a see-through paddling pool with an artificial waterfall, which will allow visitors to witness how these giant creatures swim. There is also a stunning, column-free 40 metre diameter indoor enclosure topped with a timber structure inspired by the design of the plumeria flower. The enclosure is covered by a lightweight ethylene tetrofluoroethylene (ETFE) membrane: weighing just 1% of the glass equivalent, the translucent membrane allows sunlight to penetrate while trapping solar energy for heating, helping keep temperatures and lighting levels stable.

Designing for strong elephants, temperamental bears or clever orangutans is not something that most systems engineers contend with during building design. All installations were specially encased in plastic or stainless steel to avoid ambient corrosion, while ensuring that all the exposed parts such as light switches were protected and safe from manipulation.

Creature comforts are important. Engineers ensured that the noise and vibrations generated by HVAC installations are not harmful or irritating to animals. To protect the tropical plants and greenery from cool air, ventilators needed to provide thermal and scent comfort for visitors were placed strategically.

Orientarium also hosts macaques, mountain anoa and the shark and coral reef tanks, where an underwater tunnel allows you to closely observe more than 2000 different varieties of fish.

Expansive aquatic habitats have also been designed to house a variety of species and include saltwater fish tanks with total capacity around 3000 m3, as well as a shark and a stingray tank.

Green inside and out

Rainwater is collected from the green roof in a special water tank, which is then used to water Orientarium’s rich flora. The water will be treated with UV lamps, warmed up and infused with nutrients before being redeployed in the Orientarium.

Watering is managed by a fully automated system, which provides a strictly determined amount of water for each plant section using a range of installations such as over and underground driplines.