LDA Design has joined creative, education and media industry leaders in unveiling a vision for the world’s first ‘augmented reality zoo’, based within Bristol Zoo’s historic 12-acre gardens.
#OurWorldBristol sets out a prospectus for an alternative future for Bristol Zoo Gardens, in response to the announcement of plans by Bristol Zoological Society to sell the site for private housing development, relocating the animals to the Wild Place Project in South Gloucestershire.
The vision is to create a new centre of research and education, fusing the site’s rich heritage with emerging technologies. It aims to provide an immersive experience by enabling visitors to travel in space, time and scale to experience animals in their natural habitat, enter the world of insects or go back millions of years to when dinosaurs roamed the adjacent Downs. This virtual world sits with plans to enhance the historic gardens.
OurWorld Bristol sponsors are film director Stephen Daldry, architect George Ferguson and Stuart Wood, executive director of boomsatsuma. The trio believe this to be an opportunity to work in tune with the Zoological Society’s founding principles and redefine the Zoo for tomorrow.
Anatomist and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts is also a supporter, describing the project as a perfect seed of an idea. She says, “OurWorld Bristol could become a beacon for conservation and connection with the natural world. A place to help us all meet the environmental challenges we face.”
Clare Wilks, a director at LDA Design and Bristol studio lead, says that the plan aims to realise the site’s potential and be a fitting successor to the Zoo. “Bristol is a leader in natural history film-making, and we plan to work with the BBC. We aim to create an atmosphere with a sense of escape, discovery and delight.”
The vision brings together ideas developed by the Eden Project and a collaboration between the University of Bristol, the University of Bath and UWE Bristol. It includes proposals for:
- A viewing tower offering sights across Clifton Downs, where visitors can use digital headsets to see Bristol during earlier periods dating back to the Ice Age and prehistoric times. This is supported by technology developed in partnership with Bristol’s ground-breaking MyWorld creative hub, led by University of Bristol Professor Dave Bull.
- A virtual walk around the area once occupied by Alfred the gorilla, who made Bristol Zoo famous during the 1930s and 1940s.
- Augmented reality experiences that bring users face-to-face with animal life.
“We strongly believe there is a bright future for this historic and hugely significant site, which builds on the Bristol Zoological Society’s heritage as a global pioneer and benefits the whole city,” said sponsor, Stephen Daldry.
Tom Morris OBE, artistic director, Bristol Old Vic, says it gives the city a powerful opportunity to play a pivotal role in a radical post-COVID recovery. “OurWorldBristol could allow us to see into Bristol’s future and the planet’s future too.”