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Knie Children’s Zoo, Rapperswil, Switzerland

Webnet sets the scene for climbing stars

The squirrel monkey enclosure is a good example of the cooperation between Jakob Rope Systems, construction company, architect and zoological consultant. Zoos try to make do without any bars in newly-designed animal enclosures. Webnet is an ideal material for this, and the monkeys can climb it in species-appropriate fashion. The result is a territory that also provides visitors with a better view thanks to the filigree barrier.

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A few years ago, Knies Children's Zoo set itself the task of examining its legacy from the 1960s and - where necessary - adjusting to today's circumstances and the requirements of contemporary zoos. Essentially, fewer enclosures are presented in a larger area, so that conditions are optimal for animals and visitors.

In this context, new kinds of animals, ones that sensibly augment the children's zoo's collection, are evaluated and sought. At the start of the 2003 season, a group of squirrel monkeys (saimiri sciureus) were found; given their behaviour and appearance, they would fit very nicely into the animal family at the children's zoo.


The enclosure is at the south-east end of the zoo area in place of an aviary area. It has breathed new life into the entire area and given the whole zoo experience a decidedly new aspect:

The high, swooping structure is visible from far away and entices visitors to come to the most remote area of the children's zoo.


An expressive tent shape snuggles between the existing trees and takes up the stylistic elements of the existing buildings. The construction consists of a chrome steel net, which is strung across four diagonally-arranged steel pylons.

Thanks to the fact that the enclosure is closed on all sides, an 11-metre-high structure where the animals can play was erected on the relatively small footprint. The fine chrome steel net is not just a transparent border, it also provides a lot of vertical play and climbing spaces. It provides an optimal view of the animals and, depending on how the light falls, its dome-like shape either shimmers or is nearly invisible.

An attraction in itself are the specially-developed net tubes that connect the outdoor area to the monkey house. The animals move freely between the indoor and outdoor enclosures using these hanging tubes. They use this possibility intensively, thus offering a photogenic spectacle for visitors, who can get especially close to the animals here.

Smaller guided groups can come into direct contact with the squirrel monkeys through an access lock. The access lock is simultaneously the display window for the enclosure, through which you can observe the animals undisturbed and without being blinded by the sun. The shape, material and colouration of the washed-concrete building match existing zoo buildings, especially the expressive design of the adjacent elephant enclosure.

Night and winter quarters

The indoor quarters were built in an existing stable. The already-detailed building from the 1970s was retained in its entirety. In order to accommodate its new inhabitants, it was insulated, and heating, ventilation and a humidifier were added.

In accordance with the concept of the children's zoo, the building is not accessible to visitors. However, windows provide a view of this interesting area: A special enclosure system allows the keepers optimal handling and offers the animals a species-appropriate place to reside. Thus the squirrel monkeys can form independent social groups and yet remain in acoustic contact with one another.

Construction: Gebrüder Knie, Schweizer National-Circus AG

Architects: Müller & Truniger Architekten ETH SIA

Zoological consulting: Kurt Müller


Webnet, Ø 1.5 mm, mesh 40 mm, 700 square metres

Steel supports with Ø 22 mm stranded wires

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