Friday, September 7, 2007

922 A Doll's House

Message no. 922[Branch from no. 920] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Monday, May 7, 2007 3:58pm Subject: A doll's House

That was an immensely enjoyable and entertaining relational summary Dawn!! I loved the way you went from Barbie to Gerbil cages and showed the tension between our desire to play Creator and the desire of marketers to get us to copy their designs and product placements.

The gap between designer and client becomes easy to understand when you start thinking of your chinchilla or gerbils as the clients -- do we design for what they really want or for what we think would make the coolest "doll house" for our little pets (furry mobile Barbie's essentially). A playground for our personal manipulation, as you say.

During the 4 years I worked for the L.A. Zoo I was fascinated by the way zoo designers created exhibits not to please the animals but to please the public or, worse, to please the cleaning staff (making it easy to sanitize). It was on one of my many trips to the Frankfurt zoo in Germany that the director of the Zoo took me to the new Tiger exhibit and showed me that they had eliminated the concrete and tile floors and replaced everything with many feet of soil, humus and wood chips. It was an indoor exhibit. The director said, "the cleaning staff screamed, but it works much better. Now the organic material of the floor of the exhibit absorbs the urine and the feces and bacterial action breaks it down. I ask the staff to go in and rake and shovel and take some of it away for compost -- but the thing is the Tigers are happy -- like house cats they scratch and bury their waste the natural way and they play in the dirt and wood chips and the exhibit is actually much cleaner!

The same technique was used in the new Polar Bear exhibit at San Diego Zoo where the staff told me "it used to be we would paint concrete blocks white to look like ice flows, and tint the water blue so it would seem like an "arctic" place. But the polar bears hated it, and they weren't fooled -- this is southern California! Now we let them play in dirt and grass and leaves and flower beds and we tell the public "this is what Polar Bears do in the summer" which is true. Why should they suffer because we want to pretend California is Alaska?"

Planning for the client is indeed very important!

Good job on your summary! Keep up the fun writing!

1 comment:

graceonline said...

I stopped visiting zoos thirty years ago because I couldn't bear to see the captive animals sitting in their own filth, their fur rubbed off or worse, picked off.

I'm glad to see some zoos are treating their animals more humanely. Still, it's sad that so many animals must live confined in cages, no matter how humane. How would we feel if some "superior" species subdued us and put us in cages as novelties to observe?