Architecture at the Zoo
Thursday 15 June 2006
Alongside rare and endangered species, ZSL London Zoo is also home to an array of unique and listed architecture.
In 1828 the initial grounds and housing were laid out by a rather gifted architect, Decimus Burton, the Zoo’s official architect from 1826 to 1841, and the earliest existing building at the zoo is Burton’s Clocktower, constructed on top of what was originally the llama hut, now the first aid kiosk.
There are many fine examples of architecture in the Zoo, but few have remained for their original inhabitants, such as the famous Art Deco Berthold Lubetkin penguin pool, now home to porcupines.
As the zoological world has developed so have the requirements for animal care and in turn enclosures have developed to best meet the environmental needs of the species rather than simply serve the viewing requirements of the public.
The Giraffe house however provides an exception to this rule. Completed in 1837, this building is utterly functional and still serves its purpose – the housing of giraffes. The doors are 16’ (5m) in height and 21’ (6.5m) at the eaves. Giraffes can be as tall as four-and-half meters so the scale of the building’s proportions is a direct response to the height of its residents.
More recently ZSL London Zoo has seen the addition of the Casson Pavilion in 1962-5, originally home the elephants before their relocation to Whipsnade, the African Aviary, Komodo House and ‘Meet the Monkeys’.
Developments in the 21st Century continue to keep ZSL at the forefront of animal care and visitor experience. ‘Gorilla Kingdom’, a groundbreaking new enclosure due to open in 2007 will immerse visitors in an African rainforest, provide the optimum environmental conditions for our gorillas whilst also raising awareness our gorilla conservation project in Gabon, Africa.