Sunday, 11 May 2008

Architecture at London Zoo

Opened in 1828, London Zoo is the world's oldest scientific zoological garden. From the beginning, renowned architects have always been hired to work on new buildings, and in addition to its extensive animal collection, the zoo site hosts many structures of outstanding architectural merit. Currently there are two Grade One and eight Grade II listed buildings on the Regents Park site.

The Lubetkin-designed Penguin Pool was built in 1934 and is now a Grade One Listed Building, but is no longer considered to suitable for penguins and has been empty for some years. It is to be hoped that one day a way will be found to return this Modernist classic to use, without affecting its architectural integrity in any way.

Also listed is the former Elephant and Rhino Pavillion, a fine example of Brutalist architecture, designed by Sir Hugh Casson. It opened in 1964. The pavillion now houses smaller animals, including pigs, camels and a number of birds.

The Snowdon Aviary, designed by Antony Armstrong-Jones, Cedric Price and Frank Newby, and constructed in 1964 is still in its original use and it continues to house birds.

Also of note are the Mappin Terraces, a man-made mountain landscape, completed in 1914 which housed bears for many years. They are currently closed for renovation (this picture was taken in 2003). Below the terraces is the aquarium, opened in 1924 by King George V. In my childhood, this was the highlight of any visit to the zoo, but sadly it is now very dilapidated. A wonderful original 1920s exploded diagram of the aquarium can still be seen within.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

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