Toronto Zoo Gets an Energetic Update

The Toronto Zoo Master Plan provides a comprehensive blueprint for the evolution of the 287-hectare Zoo site in the East end of the Greater Toronto Area, over the next twenty years.

Nestled in the Rouge River Valley and a stone’s throw from the vibrant downtown core is the beloved Toronto Zoo, an incredibly well-visited, unique Toronto attraction. The comprehensive Toronto Zoo Master Plan injects energy into a bustling yet ageing site while also providing a blueprint for the evolution of the Zoo covering the next twenty years. The Zoo’s needs are shifting, which requires a re-thinking of the site to better serve the many species that call the Zoo home; additionally, guest experience is improved to facilitate and showcase the world-class research and animal care already taking place onsite. Building on the site’s existing successful qualities and assets, the master plan concept proposes a plethora of new programs, buildings, and experiences. New and returning guests are treated with awe filled journeys, enticing them to extend their stay and return to enjoy the novelty of discoveries each season provides.

The Zoo of Contrasts

The Toronto Zoo is a site of considerable contrasts: dense pockets of bustling activity with urban qualities at its centre and at the periphery, tranquil and serene natural landscape pockets. The over-arching design concept, Zoo of Contrasts, builds off and enhances each of these amazing qualities. Differences are accentuated as a way to create even more diverse and intriguing experiences when they are expanded and experienced in contrast to each other.

The District and The Park – the bustling and the serene

Two contrasting identities are developed across the site with The District becoming the vibrant, bustling, urban heart of the Zoo of tomorrow, where dense hubs of activity will occur, supported by technology and a higher density of programs in central areas. This is surrounded by The Park zone, offering expansive landscapes where it is possible to get momentarily lost in exploration and enjoy both the serenity and tranquillity of nature, as well as the exciting experience of “discovering” animals in larger, immersive habitats.

Winter Viewing and Holding Pavilion – an extensive indoor habitat for African species

The proposed Indoor Winter Viewing and Holding Pavilion, centrally located at the Zoo and well-connected to existing Savanna habitats, creates an extensive indoor habitat for African species currently not on display in winter. This pavilion becomes an extension of the landscape and offers new opportunities for rentable spaces in the summer with views directly onto Savanna species in their outdoor habitat.

Wilderness North – a Canadian overnight experience

Today, this corner of the Zoo boasts an incredible, almost pastoral landscape. Wilderness North brings native Canadian species up to this corner, adding all-season yurts to this expansive landscape, inviting guests to stay overnight with the feeling of being embedded right in the habitat.

Gorilland – creating new experiences for animals and guests

Refurbishment of the African Rainforest Pavilion elevates pockets for guests within the building, connecting them to create larger, internal habitat areas for species allowing for more ground plane for the animals. 360 transfer tubes extend outside of the building to create a deepened experience and connection with surrounding habitats. Within the pavilion the 360 transfer tubes function to bring guests up and above the existing landscape, providing new and enriched encounters for both humans and animals.

An array of projects welcoming a diversity of programs and guests

Projects within the Master Plan bring a diversity of new offerings to the Zoo, constantly going above and beyond to continue enhancing animal welfare, while offering novel experiences that invite guests to the site. These projects create new opportunities and partnerships with the community, facilitate the work of staff and volunteers and improve sustainability on site and beyond. A new Nutrition Centre and Restaurant, a Saving Species Sanctuary, and a Tigerline (a connected elevated habitat) provide new experiences for animals and guests, while welcoming new partnerships, reducing the Zoo’s carbon footprint, and improving site sustainability.

The Zoo Daycare

Located in an accessible and currently underused part of the Zoo, the new Zoo Daycare offers incredible educational opportunities with connections to species on site as well use of the Zoo’s lush, diverse landscape as an extension of the daycare classroom. The Daycare offers a program that can serve both Zoo staff and the broader community, creating a rich and unique learning enviornment found nowhere else in the city.

Safari Meander landscape journey

The Safari Meander creates a large, connected habitat by bridging the landscape over a guest path, pulling guests in a tunnel underneath it, creating a Safari feeling and a journey of discovery. This immersive tunnel below the elevated landscape functions as a forum for dialogue, hosting displays and installations that further enhance the guest experience in the expansive Savanna habitat.

Toronto Zoo | Toronto, Canada | Mandaworks

Type: Commission

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Assignment: Master plan

Landscape Architect: Mandaworks

Client: Toronto Zoo

Size: 287 hectares

Collaborators: Ralph Applebaum Associates; Re:Public Urbanism; Fennessy Consulting Services; Town Square, Momentum; WSP

About Terren Shi 116 Articles
Terren is an emerging graduate landscape architect with a passion for design theory and history. She holds a Bachelor of Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Melbourne, which she completed in 2020 and 2022 respectively. Currently, Terren works as a sessional tutor at the Melbourne School of Design. She also contributes interviews and essays on landscape architecture and design.