Why do we stare at animals?

lecture, research

Zoo \ ˈzü \ – a facility with usually indoor and outdoor settings where living, typically wild animals are kept especially for public exhibition.
— called also zoological garden, zoological park (from the Merriam-Webster dictionary)

In 2020, many European cities are still famous for their zoological gardens and parks, from the oldest one of Western countries in Vienna, to the famous Berlin’s zoo with the world’s largest variety of species, passing from Lisbon, London, Hamburg, Paris, Madrid and Belgrade – among others.

The zoo of Adam and Eve / collage by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani

Zoological gardens were born as places for staging nature, especially when coming from exotic realities and far away countries, but also for education and science.

From the Persian paradeisos to the English menageries and the travelling fairs which crossed Europe in the XIX century, both western and eastern culture share the custom of gathering rare animals for curiosity and knowledge, and also to show power and to entertain. Finally, in the XIX century, they settled down in form of zoologic gardens. Born as proper institutions, they aimed at scientific research, not anymore to wonder, but capitalism and the urgent need of economic support drastically transformed them in thematic parks.

A contemporary collection / collage by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani

But today, in 2020, do we still need zoos to explore the animals’ worlds for educational and research purpose? In a century in which massive tourism transformed the distance perception, do we still need them to travel to the exotic?

The city of Belgrade hosts the “Garden of Good Hope”, which sounds like a great name for a place where animals live still in captivity. Which is its contribution to the city, local community, tourism and economy? Let’s walk it together and let’s discuss about a new concept of zoo, trying to reinterpret and revitalize this public heritage and to update it to our contemporary society. And us, do we really still need to go to the zoo and stare at the animals?

Why do we stare at animals? / collage by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani

“THE GARDEN OF GOOD HOPE or why do we stare at animals?” is a Urban Talk organised by BINA – Belgrade International Architecture Week 2020 in collaboration with Future Architecture Platform and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The lecture is scheduled for the 4th September 2020 at the Cultural Center in Belgrade, but due to COVID-19 restrictions it may suffer some changes.

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