Immersion/Illusion: Space, Place & Complicity at the San Francisco Zoo

By Camellia George.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Zoos were once a primary location for urban Americans to encounter “nature” escape and remedy the woes of city life. They served as convenient islands of voyeuristic entertainment accessible within the city proper. Today, American zoos consider themselves institutions of science and emissaries of conservation—hoping that if they connect visitors with animals they will engender efforts to save them and their habitats. The African Savanna, recently unveiled at the San Francisco Zoo, exemplifies this contemporary American stance on viewing animals and nature. I offer a descriptive analysis of the spatial constructs and relationships, the geographical and temporal placement of the exhibit and the representation of this way of seeing to the outside world. This paper seeks to investigate the ambivalence of wonder and discomfort felt in viewing the African Savanna—and how it reflects the larger relationship of Western culture to nature.

Keywords: Zoos, Nature, Animals, Landscape, Amusement

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.141-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.063MB).

Camellia George

MA/MFA Candidate, Visual & Critical Studies Department & Design Department, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA, USA

Camellia George dedicates her efforts to catalyzing social change through practice, writing, study and teaching of design. After completing her BFA in Communication Design at Carnegie Mellon University, Camellia worked as a graphic and product designer in her own studio and at Fastback Creative Books launching photobook products for Apple, Shutterfly and Kodak among others. In 2008 she finished her MFA in Design at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Her thesis research focused on the material culture of the American agro-industrial complex and how it structures our relationship to food. Camellia will continue on at CCA to complete an MA in Visual & Critical Studies concentrating her efforts on writing about material culture and its influence on the construction of knowledge.

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