Gondwanaland at Zoo Leipzig

  • Date
  • 2010
  • Location
  • Germany, Leipzig
  • Size
  • 20,000 m²
  • Sector
  • Botanic, Zoos
  • Structure
  • Steel
  • Application
  • Climatic, Roofs
  • Architect
  • Architekturbüro Henchion, Reuter & Partner


Leipzig Zoo has taken nature in its most primitive form to a new dimension on a 16.500 m² site to create a unique architectural structure, which not only provides an amazing experience for visitors to the Zoo but which is also an evolution in design. Vector Foiltec, the world market leader for intelligent architecture using high-performance Texlon® ETFE inflated panels, played a key role in the successful development of this self-supporting structure.

“Gondwanaland”, the ancient continent which broke up over 150 million years ago was a paradise, populated by giant trees, flowers and exotic birds, and now constitutes our southern hemisphere.

The tropical biosphere opened to the public in July 2011 – an event of national significance after 11 years of planning and four years of construction. As Europe’s largest tropical hall, Gondwanaland, is a milestone in the history of zoological buildings.

Not a copy: Zoo Leipzig built an actual rainforest

Artificially creating a tropical rainforest is not easy. Doing it in the middle of Germany, where the climate is far from the temperature and humidity levels you find close to the equator, made it an even bigger challenge. When the team of Zoo Leipzig, around legendary Prof. Dr. Jörg Junhold, proclaimed that building the new Gondwanaland Hall was “impossible”, this was not an acceptable response for the team of architects, engineers and contractors. The sheer size of the space that needed to be covered was already a challenge with free spans of up to 154 meters. And value engineering was the name of the game in the partly state-funded project that needed to be completed on a tight budget.

Vector Foiltec was a vital partner in the team of experts and optimized an exterior steel structure, that carries the 20,000 m2 Texlon® ETFE shell, consisting of 577 single foil cushions for roof and facade.
While the interior climate was the main concern for the operations team, optimization of the complex structure, the interfaces, and the huge gutter system needed to be considered for the construction team. And the deadlines were tight: An erection time of just 3.5 months put additional constraints on the project. Team collaboration was key, and Vector Foiltec was able to design a system within budget, that also met the time constraints of the construction phase. This allowed for an on-time opening of the Gondwanaland Tropics Hall – which has become a landmark in the zoological world.



Climate Design

Temperature and humidity are crucial for the survival of more than 140 exotic animals and 500 different plants. The UV-transparent system ensures proper lighting while operable panels control ventilation.

Custom Engineering

The exterior structure required a custom designed suspension system for the roofing elements that measure more than 80 m2 each.

Snow load mitigation

Harsh outside climate does not just require good building-skin insulation. The Texlon® ETFE system was equipped with snow sensors that make sure the cushions withstand all possible snow loads.

The structure

A flourishing paradise is protected by the gigantic self-supporting steelwork structure clad with transparent Texlon® ETFE cushions to create the ultimate climatic envelope. The steel structure carries the 20,000 m2 Texlon® ETFE shell, consisting of 439 single ETFE foil cushions in the roof and 138 foil cushions for the facade, many of them bigger than the footprint of the average 1-family house.


How does it feel to walk under the Texlon® ETFE roof?

Feel it yourself and visit Gondwanaland in Leipzig, Germany. Vector Foiltec has realized many projects around the world – call us for a reference in your country. If you have any questions regaring a Texlon® ETFE building skin or if you have already a challenge for Vector Foiltec, just contact us.


Main Image: © Werner Huthmacher