Department or Program



This thesis examines the Bronx Zoo from the creation of the New York Zoological Society through the year of 1906, seven years after the zoo opened. This zoo, like other parks and zoos of the time, was born out of larger movements that placed importance on civic public amenities and valued certain open spaces as inherently good. This thesis questions what we can learn about our understanding and use of nature by following this development. Zoos offer a rich context in which to analyze human considerations about the world they occupy because the spaces are heavily constructed yet display natural elements that zoo leaders had to consider, assign value to, organize, and present. By examining the development of the Bronx Zoo, it becomes clear that city officials, park designers, and zoo designers considered nature and its human utility in varied, complex, and even contradictory ways. An analysis of parks and zoos through both archival records and academic writing demonstrates that humans created these spaces in the hopes of bettering the lives of their cities’ residents, with their own personal motivations and visions, and with the willingness to create hybrid spaces that offered disparate elements in public green space. This thesis examines the display of nature as the sum of three parts—the development and presentation landscape and architecture, animals and their exhibits, and the display of the human. It focuses on how artificial landscapes were developed and created and the control that the zoo developers tried to exert over the nonhuman elements with which they came into contact.

Level of Access

Open Access

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.