The Garden of the Zoological Society is the first scientific zoo originated from the needs of scientists wanting to do research on animals and of the city's inhabitants looking for recreational options. The word zoo is a popular abbreviation of zoological gardens first used in 1867, in London.
The 15 hectares of the site itself consists of three parts interconnected with bridges and tunnels. As is often common, the zoo seems to have more space to accommodate visitors rather than animals.
The zoo is rich of 19th and 20th-century architecture
- 1827 Raven’s cage now on display as an ancient curiosity. The cage is by Decimus Burton, architect and designer of the zoo.
- 1828 Clock Tower by Decimus Burton loosely based on the Tudor architectural style. Burton designs small enclosures and elegant gardens.
- 1829/1830 East Tunnel by Decimus Burton connecting the north and south sides.
- 1836/7 Giraffe enclosure in Neoclassical style by Decimus Burton. When Into Africa is launched, April 2006, it includes Burton's giraffe house still fit for purpose.
- 1875 The lion mask has moved from the old lion house to the lion terraces 1972/6, along with the stone carrying the inscription "The lions house". The addition of the letter S behind the word lion dates from the 1970s, though.
- 1913/4 Mappin Terraces by Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell and John James Joass, a fake mountain landscape for Asian black bears and Hanuman langurs featuring environmental enrichment to promote bear welfare. In 2008, The Mappin Terraces are turned into The Outback in the Australian-themed area.
- 1926/7 Reptile house by zoologist Joan Beauchamp Proctor. Her designs for naturalistic backgrounds are manufactured by stage designer John Bull while Sir Edward Guy Dawber who also designed the main gate (1928) has added some Italian touch. Animals, sculpted by George Alexander crawling along the door. Since 1927, this Victorian Blackburn Pavilion serves as a birdhouse which is expanded in the 1920s. March 2008, the pavilion reopens after a £2.5m revamp featuring the original entrance porch after years of disuse, a walk-through, and visual education.
- 1932/3 Round House by Tecton partnership under modernist architect Berthold Lubetkin, is an early Modernist building for gorillas, nowadays Grade-I listed.
- 1934 Penguin Pool by Berthold Lubetkin and Ove Arup is an oval-shaped structure of reinforced concrete with in the center two spiral ramps of 14 by 1.2 meters almost floating over the pool. The enclosure includes a diving tank and nesting boxes. Yet, walking on concrete over time causes joint pain to the penguins and the water is too shallow for them, says the zoo in 2004. Children cannot look over the parapet of this Hollywood tanning studio. And according to the Sunday Times, the penguins couldn’t be dragged away from their temporary accommodation at the duck pond. Neither do the next inhabitants of the Pool - the Chinese alligators - flourish in the Bauhaus property. Lots of design for little habitat. In 1985-87 the finishing layers on the concrete surfaces and the color pattern of the Pool are renewed.
- 1929 A K3-type telephone kiosk by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, 1928-29, near the Penguin Beach.
- 1936 North Gate Kiosk by Lubetkins Tecton Company featuring a curved concrete canopy.
- 1962/4 Snowdon Aviary by Snowdon, Price and Newby
The complex tetrahedral aluminum exhibit itself looks like a lightweight bird covered with a giant net skin tensioned by cables. The transparent net visually blends the inside and the outside as if the aviary may not look like an exhibit, does not exist at all. Snowdon Aviary is the first walkthrough exhibit in Britain. At the end of 2016, news arrived that Foster + Partners will repair the aviary and transform it into a walkthrough for colobus monkeys. In Zoo Land Foster + Partners are known for the elephant house in zoo Copenhagen.
- 1962/65 Casson Pavilion is designed by Sir Hugh Casson and Neville Conder and Partners following a brief by Desmond Morris.
In 1965, the RIBA award for the Best Building in London goes to Casson for the brutalist concrete building for elephants and rhinos that, itself, looks like a sturdy and massive elephant, the opposite of the Snowdon Aviary from the same period. The ribbed concrete walls evoke the elephant skin and also prevent damage by the elephants. Visitors seem to look down through the tall green lanterns at the waterhole around which the herd gathers. Natural light enters the elephant areas through funnels from above, while the visitor areas are kept dark according to the aquarium principle lighting.
Nowadays the rhinos and elephants are moved out to Whipsnade.
- 1989/90 The African Aviary (1827-8) which originally is called the Eastern Aviary by zoo architect Anthony Salvin replaces an older aviary by Decimus Burton. The Eastern Aviary features a public corridor as well as indoor and outdoor bird cages. In 1989-90, the structure is renamed the African Aviary and given a revamp by architect John S Bonnington Partnership and engineers Whitby and Bird. The structure of stainless-steel tubular frame, fine piano wire, steel footings and concrete foundations includes a pond, a waterfall, and fake trees.
Meet the Monkeys (2005) where zoogoers can drop in at the squirrel monkeys without an appointment, sets the tone for further renovation.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is founded in April 1826 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and like-minded people. Raffles is the first chairman but dies shortly after his appointment in 1826, one day before his 45th birthday. On a leased piece of Regent's Park, the ZSL is studying animals. The Society aims at a collection of live animals, a taxidermy museum, and a library. The zoo opens in '27 for members, especially intended for scientists including Darwin. Initially, public access is only permitted to use the entry fees for research. In 1828, the zoo opens in the northern part of Regent's Park and in 1848 to the general public.
Then one day King William IV donates the royal menagerie to the ZSL in 1831, marking the end of a memorable epoch in which the exotic animal collection represents the sovereign's power and wealth. In the new era, the wild animal collection symbolizes the world dominance of the nation to all corners of the globe, from where the animals originate.
Harriet Ritvo notes that the 19th-century visitors find sensational joy in the proximity of wild animals. That feeling of superiority when you are on the right side of the bars...
"There was ample opportunity for visitors to enjoy simultaneously the thrill of proximity to wild animals and the happy sense of superiority produced by their incarceration...".
From old prints, we know that visitors feed the bears with buns placed at the end of long sticks. As usual in the 19th century, London zoo tends towards a postage-stamp collection featuring one or two animals of each species ending up with the largest animal collection in the world.
Convinced that tropical animals cannot endure the English climate the zoo keeps all exotic species indoors during the first 65 years. By the early 20th century, inspired by the Freianlagen in the Hagenbeck zoo in Hamburg, ZSL secretary Peter Mitchell gives the animals access to the outdoors.
With great pride, the London zoo claims a number of historic firsts.
- 1828 First scientific zoo
- 1849 First reptile house
- 1853 First public aquarium
- 1881 First insectarium
- 1938 First petting zoo in the world
By the 1990s the zoo finds itself in dire straits. The proposed closure due to decreased income has been reversed in September 1992. The focus has shifted to worldwide conservation through breeding and moving animals to London Zoo's sister enclosure, Whipsnade Zoo.
Visit August 2005
Where have all the animals gone? Many outdoor exhibits along the recommended route look pretty messy and empty such as the anoa alley near the giraffe house and the meagre aquarium. The Penguin Pool is occupied by porcupines and the interactive museumlike presentation in insectarium B.U.G.S! looks really good.
The decision has been made to replace all iron bars with modern zoo design. The London zoo will develop further according to the recipe of the African Bird Safari and Meet the Monkeys launched in 2005. Visitors can enter both walkthrough exhibits to surround themselves by nature.
In fact, London Zoo is not publically funded on a regular basis and has asked whether the EU can envisage to provide public contribution to zoos.
Zoo maps London
Numbers 2005 vs 2014
- Species: 850 vs 756
- Animals:12.000 vs 17.450
- 15 ha
- 2,5 vs 1,2 million a year
- 19th-century zoo
- Architect involved
- Listed structures
- Scientific zoo