Engaging the Visitor / by Martin

Immersion exhibits have traditionally allowed the visitor and animal to be in the same environment. The visitor is 'immersed' in the animal's habitat with viewing points along the path.

We challenged ourselves in the yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula) exhibit at Nuremberg Zoo in Germany, to immerse the visitor in the animal's habitat and in its activities.
Martens like to play - so do visitors. Climbing up to look around, eating, splashing in water, hopping along stones - all of these activities could be shared experiences.

Our starting point was to give the martens a rich and varied exhibit that would allow natural behavior. Then we mirrored these opportunities for the visitor. In effect we built an extra large exhibit and cut it in half with one side for the animal, and the other for the visitor.

On the marten side a small stream runs into a pond,

where the animal can...

copyright Dr. Helmut Mägdefrau
wet its snout,...
copyright Dr. Helmut Mägdefrau
or its feet..
or dig for food.

On the visitor side a stream crosses the path,...

...allowing the visitor to step in and play...

or dig around under rocks.

A large, old oak stands in the center of the exhibit. Its branches create an elevated path for the martens. The high branches are a favorite look-out point for the animal.

We took the visitor along an elevated path to a great look-out point. On a raised platform the visitors can see eye to eye with the animals in the tree.

The martens run through the branches in all seasons and at all times of the day.

copyright Dr. Helmut Mägdefrau

They also enjoy stumps and limbs on the ground.

copyright Dr. Helmut Mägdefrau

copyright Dr. Helmut Mägdefrau
Wood stumps for visitors to climb on.

The animal chute between exhibit areas is hidden by this stacked wood. It gives kids another spot to climb. 

Stepping stones are not only for kids and animals.

Even visitors beyond their teenage years enjoy stepping away from the trodden path

Outdoor dining is another shared activity.

The zoo has a public feeding once a day.

Located near the marten's feeding place is a viewing shelter.

(Rocks for the kids to climb and jump on while parents sit on the bench)
A picnic table and bench allows visitors to take out their sandwiches and a thermos and enjoy eating and watching the animals.

Creating opportunities for visitors to step away from the asphalt path - to climb, to hop, to take off their shoes and splash - means more time at the exhibit and more time to see the animal and its behavior.

More time spent at exhibit means more time spent at the zoo and that can translate into repeat visits.

Play time and discovery opportunities are a chance for families to interact, which was the main goal for coming to the zoo in the first place.

This exhibit opened in 2008 through the combined design efforts of the Nuremberg Zoo, Führes Landscape Architects, and myself.
copyright Dr. Helmut Mägdefrau