The Arctic Ring: Up Close with Polar Bears at the Zoo


Photo: Bo Bolther

Modern, well-crafted architecture adds entirely new dimensions and animal welfare to the old enclosures at Copenhagen Zoo. The Arctic Ring offers the public a very special glimpse into the lives of polar bears.

The Arctic Ring provides the polar bears at the Zoo with over 3,000 square meters to roam around. The facility aims to replicate the bears’ natural living conditions in the Arctic wilderness. Therefore, the land area is designed like a tundra coast with rocks, grasses, herbs, shrubs, and dwarf willows, as found in the Arctic.

Face to Face with Polar Bears

In the tundra-like landscape, the large predators can dig in the ground and search for food, jump into the water from cliffs, and dive into the large saltwater pool. Through the pool runs a transparent acrylic tunnel, where the public can get up close and personal with the large animals as they dive into the water. Mutual curiosity allows visitors to look directly into the eyes of the polar bears, for a better understanding of their size.

Multiple Perspectives for the Guests

The path through the facility is shaped like a spatial journey with various experiences following one another. The journey through The Arctic Ring starts on land, on a winding ramp course, offering views of the polar bears’ tundra landscape. The ramp leads down to the Arctic Sea, where visitors experience the polar bears underwater and continue upwards along the perimeter of the building, where they can see the polar bears in the water again, now at water level. Along the way, guests can engage with exhibitions about the animals’ lives and experience the Faroese bird cliff with puffins, guillemots, and auks, standing right in the middle of The Arctic Ring.

Northern Inspiration

Dall & Lindhardtsen have designed The Arctic Ring, and it’s not their first time taking good care of the animals. They are also behind the Hippo House, Giraffe House, and Monkey Jungle in Copenhagen Zoo. The inspiration for The Arctic Ring comes from the polar bears’ origins in the Arctic tundra with glaciers, blue sea, and chalk-white icebergs. The Arctic Ring is constructed with special geometries; ellipses, arches, and ramp courses, cast on-site in snow-white concrete. In some places, the concrete is cast against acrylic panels to achieve a mirror-like ice surface that mimics the polar bears’ natural environment.

Near The Arctic Ring

Copenhagen Zoo has other animal enclosures of high architectural value. For example, experience the Elephant House and its beautiful light influx from the two leaf-patterned glass domes. The Panda House is also worth a visit. Here, BIG has created an animal enclosure with a floor plan shaped after the Chinese yin-yang symbol. When visiting Copenhagen Zoo, the Zoo Tower is also a nearby attraction. The closest Copenhagen gets to an Eiffel Tower offers a magnificent view of the city.