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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Zoological Garden in Dochodo, South Korea by JDS Architects

May 27th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: JDS Architects

The island is located in the South West corner of Korea, province of Mokpo, the most underdeveloped region of the country. Our island is the missing corner of an isocele triangle in between Seoul, first city and business hub and Busan, second city and industrial pole. Being on the west coast of Korea, Dochodo’s potential to attract south eastern Asian tourism is obvious.


  • Architects: JDS Architects
  • Project: Zoological Garden
  • Location: Dochodo, Jeonnam, South Korea
  • Title: ZOOREA
  • Code: Zoo


  • Size: 43,587,000 M2
  • Client: Commune of Jeonnam
  • Collaborators: DEMC
  • Status: Settled
  • JDS Team: JULIEN DE SMEDT, Heechan Park, Wolfgang Mitterer, Isabella Eriksson, Ryan Neiheiser, Robert Huebser, Francisco Villeda


The power of emptiness: what can we do in a desolated place such as this with little infrastructure, little frequency of visits, few inhabitants? We saw a potential for green growth in the very absence of development of the region… a test project to develop a tourist region based on sustainable development only, where natures and structures function in equilibrium, feeding one another.


Ssize up: the island is vast and allows for a lot more than a zoo: we propose to phase the development into 3 parts. The landscape of peaks and valleys offers an almost natural method of configuring the island’s development: we select a datum height of 20m within hilly range and use that level curve that situates across the entire island, as our development band. Everything above that remains untouched and wild, everything below becomes nature reserve and is controlled. All infrastructure and program will be grouped on the band. The relationship of the topography with the band generates 3 defined zones of interventions, 3 scales of development, 3 steps in time for the future of the island.


What can we do in an isolated place with little infrastructure, few inhabitants, and almost no visitors? We see the potential for green growth in the region – a case study to define a tourist region based on sustainable development only, where natures and structures function in equilibrium, symbiotically feeding one another. The program is a new zoo on a small, relatively undeveloped island off the southwest coast of South Korea, but we see the potential for the project to strategically redefine an entire region.


Geographic Identity
The island of Dochodo is the missing vertex of an isosceles triangle described by Seoul (first city and business hub of South Korea) and Busan (second city and industrial hub). Located on the southwest coast of Korea, Dochodo’s potential to attract tourism from the surrounding Asian megacities, especially from Shanghai, is clear and compelling.


Three Topographies
The natural island landscape of peaks and valleys suggests the method for configuring the island’s development. The low, flat land in the center of the island, currently covered with rice fields, is the ideal location for the future zoo. The high mountainous peaks are protected from development and treated as nature preserves. The medium height topography is the area available to build on. We select a datum height of 20 meters, which defines a meandering band across the entire island as our locus and boundary of development. Everything above remains untouched and wild, everything below becomes a controlled nature reserve.


Active Infrastructural Green Belt
All infrastructure and program (transportation, energy, water, waste treatment, and building systems) are grouped within the development band, creating an “infrastructural green belt.” While the typical green belt passively limits development, the infrastructural green belt actively enhances surrounding ecologies. Transplanted from the city to nature, our green belt acts as sustainable infrastructure, a machine to enhance the ecological health of the surrounding natures.


From “Sustain” to “Ability”
Towards moving beyond the tired label of ”sustainable design,” and shifting our focus from “sustain” to “ability,” the project adheres to a set of simple design ambitions, the kind of basic principles that hopefully soon will not need to be made explicit.


1) Development: We will minimize the development footprint. We will maximize the density, impact, and beauty of the development that we do propose.
2) Transport: Other than the proposed through-road traffic and service deliveries, all island transport will produce zero carbon.
3) Energy: The island will use only as much energy as it can collect. All energy will be collected from renewable energy sources; solar, wind, wave, and bio-waste. Energy generation will be embedded within the island development, reducing the loss of energy from long distance transmission.


4) Water: Rainwater will be collected and stored for use throughout the development. In the zoo sanctuaries and protected nature preserve areas, the characteristics of the natural pre-development hydrological system will be maintained as much as possible.
5) Waste: Waste will be thought of as the food for other processes. All plant, human, and animal waste will be reused as composted fertilizer or bio-fuel energy.
6) Biodiversity: The development band will act as a kind of active growth boundary, protecting and encouraging the biodiversity of the existing island animal and plant ecologies.


The diverse programs on Dochodo Zoological Island influence and become increasingly dependent on one another; architecture, infrastructure, and landscape integrated into a comprehensive ecology of exchange.


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