These Huge Glass Biodomes Will Bring Back Endangered Wildlife

Freshwater tortoises. Fox and lynx. The blackfaced spoonbill and the stumpy bullhead. This amazing research center under construction in South Korea will house species revivals.

Wildlife in South Korea doesn’t really have a lot of room to roam–with a population density that’s more than 10 times the global average (and a staggering 1,478% greater than the United States), there are people pretty much everywhere. But one mountainous, inland region near the eastern coast is so hard to reach that it’s still pristine, and it’s been chosen as the location of the new National Research Center for Endangered Species.


A series of huge glass biodomes will be used to breed and raise endangered birds like the blackfaced spoonbill. “The form of the bird cage was decided through studies of the spoonbill’s flight paths, which tend to be in circles,” says Kate Kim, a spokesperson for Samoo, the Korean architecture firm that designed the research center. “The location of the structure on a hillside ensures that enough height is secured for the birds.” Once birds have adapted to the environment, they’ll be released back into the wild.

Another group of buildings will be used to breed and study endangered species like the Korean stumpy bullhead–a fish that only lives in South Korea–and the Korean golden frog, an animal that currently lives in places like the Demilitarized Zone on the border of North Korea, one of the few other spots where there aren’t any people. The center will also study and rehabilitate species like the freshwater tortoise, which is threatened in part by illegal sales to places like China for meat, and animals like the fox, lynx, and musk deer, which are threatened most by loss of habitat.

Ironically, the complex will also bring more people to the wilderness, since it includes a center for visitors. But the designers have tried to minimize impacts on the local environment by including as many sustainable features as possible, like solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and building locations chosen to maximize natural lighting and ventilation. It’s also designed to blend into the surrounding hills–or at least as much as is possible for giant glass bubbles.

Construction will start this December, and the complex will open in 2016.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.