The Garden of the Zoological Society is the first zoo for scientists studying animals and 20 years later also for the bourgeoisie as a leisure activity. The 15 hectares of the site consist of three parts connected with bridges and tunnels. The zoo has 13 structures labelled as Grade 1 and 2. Some of these are no longer considered as suitable for animals. And by the way, the words zoo and aquarium were invented in London, an abbreviation of zoological garden and a contraction of aquatic vivarium.
The zoo is rich in 19th and 20th-century architecture. Decimus Burton, the first architect (1826-41), landscapes the zoo at about the same time that picturesque landscapes and rustic amusement architecture (think of follies) are in vogue, in England: cozy and rural.
1828 The Clock Tower is the oldest brickwork structure in the zoo. The sort of Tudor tower is added three years later. In 1844, they turn it into a Gothic lama enclosure. Another reconstruction follows around the turn of the century. It is rebuilt after war damage in WWII and transformed into a shop by the end of the 1980s. Today, it is a first-aid post.
Architect: Decimus Burton
Architect 1898: Charles Brown Trollope
Architect 1946: Burnet, Tait and Lorne
1836-7 The Giraffe House since 2006 part of Into Africa. The layout of the 6.5m high block-shaped giraffe stable of "London stock" brick is symmetrical about the central axis. A facade featuring three 5m high arched doors under a slate roof with deep edges and brackets. In addition to straight lines and symmetry, triangular gable tops (frontons) characterize neoclassical architecture. The same duo doors just one size smaller in the lower side wings of 1848-50; the east wing used to be the hippopotamus enclosure. The matching west wing is attributed to Anthony Salvin. The wings have some space above the cornice, an attic. The building suffers war damage in 1940 and is rebuilt in the early 1960s as part of the Cotton Terraces. Ditches and benches replaced fences so the audience can see the animals better, but a lot of Burton has been left intact.
Architect: Decimus Burton
Architect 1960-3: Franz Stengelhofen and Colin Wears
1882-3 Former Reptile House, and now Blackburn Pavilion is a Victorian appearance abode serving as a birdhouse since 1927-8. The brick lean-to aviaries and the metal cages on the west and south sides date from that period. Small bird cages are added in 1974. March 2008, the pavilion reopens after a £2.5m renovation with the original entrance restored and a heavy emphasis on visual education. The puppets on the bird clock (Tim Hunkin, 2008) in front of the door start dancing every half hour. The block-shaped main building of red bricks and sandstone measures 36 by 18 meters and has a slate roof. Inside, a black-and-white mosaic floor, floor-to-ceiling glazed display windows, and "Victorian" bird silhouettes and pictures on the wall. Furthermore, a walk-through rainforest behind which England's only hummingbirds reside.
Architect: Charles Brown Trollope
Architect 1927: P E C Lain
Architect 1974: John Toovey
1896-7 The Stork and Ostrich House had to protect large birds during the cold season; storks on the north side and ostriches on the south side. The style is Domestic Revival also dubbed Old English. Red bricks with terracotta dressings, some plaster, and a wooden turret give the elongated building that nice rural touch. All this is in the vicinity of the new Tiger Territory. In the 1990s, it is made appropriate for other animals, and in 2005, it opened and renovated as the African Bird Safari. Still quite authentic. In 2013 it is strengthened and partly adapted as tiger den.
Architect: Charles Brown Trollope
1913-4 In the Mappin Terraces we see a distinct Hagenbeck panorama. The stunning mountain landscape on a quadrant plan consists of concentrically arranged enclosures flanked by staircases for humans to viewing terraces on three levels. The four rock formations are an early experiment with reinforced concrete according to a new building principle by Julius Kahn. The naturalistic design was spiced up with environmental enrichment for bears. Think of a manmade cliff as a visual barrier in the landscape and even feces from predators as in the enemy is everywhere. Those bears lived on the middle level having deer (later penguins) and goats as downstairs and upstairs neighbours. Water for the Aquarium comes from reservoirs stored in the hollow belly of the artificial mountains. This is reminiscent of the Grand Rocher in Paris. In 2008, part of the Mappin Terraces is converted into Outback. The stairs up each side of the rock formations are now closed.
Architect: John James Joass and John Belcher with ZSL secretary Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell.
Architect 1968-72: John Toovey
1914-20 Just like the Mappin Terraces, the Mappin Cafe is based on a quadrant plan shape. This former tea house dressed in Italian Renaissance style shows red bricks, stone dressings, low-pitched pantile roofs, paired Tuscan columns, and a turret on all three corners. French windows from floor to ceiling featuring small glass panels in timber framework. From the terrace on the curved side with an open colonnade, you have a panoramic view of the mountain enclosure. After its closure in 1985, it became the event venue of the Mappin Pavilion, in 2003.
Architect: John James Joass and John Belcher with Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell
1923-4 Below the Mappin Terraces you find the Aquarium with its classical exterior. Look at the arched doorway at the main entrance, and the symmetry in the facades that were only later covered with cement or "London stock". Filtered water comes from an ingenious canal system in the interior of the Mappin Terraces.
Architect: John James Joass
Renovations: Franz Stengelhofen
1926-7 The practical Reptile House is mainly associated with zoologist Procter, who turns out to be an interior designer for animals. She is also involved in technological innovation such as UV light through Vita glass so that the lizards can produce vitamin D. Stage designer John Bulle creates the naturalistic sets she devised. Planting and rock work continues in the background murals. Procter did more rockwork at the zoo.
Architect: Sir Edward Guy Dawber with Joan Beauchamp Procter
1932/3 The Round House is the original gorilla enclosure and is now a Grade 1 listed building.
It is the first modernist zoo building in Britain.
It is circular and painted white on the outside. According to the zoo's website, the inside was initially painted blue and yellow for an open look. The southern half consists of outdoor cages on a stepped platform on a sloping surface, while the closed half is made of reinforced concrete under a flat asphalt roof. A rotating screen can enclose the entire building to prevent the spread of cold and germs in winter.
Architect: Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton Group
1934 The Penguin Pool is a 30 meters long daring egg of reinforced concrete, with in the centre two spiral ramps of 14 by 1.2 meters almost floating over the oval pool. It looks as if there are four due to the reflections in the water. Azure blue tiles also hint at the ocean. Some stripes on the white give a touch of Corbusier. Everything is focused on circulation. The stationary visitor looks down into the pool below while the penguins are swimming laps smoothly and wobbling over the spiral shapes the penguin's way. Form follows function... yet, walking on concrete over time causes joint pain to the penguins and the water is too shallow for them, the zoo says in 2004. Children cannot look over the parapet and the glacier-white concrete hurts the eyes. Lots of modernism for little habitat, say. The vacant accommodation looks frozen in its monument status, now.
Architect: Berthold Lubetkin and Ove Arup
1936 The North Gate Kiosk is part of the original northern entrance to the zoo. The gate and toilet building there date from 1926. In 1937, the kiosk, a gatekeeper's lodge, and a revolving door exit are added to the east of the gate. The red brick kiosk has Grade II status. The gate has bay windows for ticket sales and tourniquet doors. You see an undulating canopy supported by steel columns. The gate closes in 1975 to be converted into a shop. In 1989-90 it becomes a bird center. Since the pandemic, it serves as a storage space.
Architect gate and toilet block 1926: Walter, Hearn, and Chuter
Architect 1937: Tecton, Lubetkin
Architect 1989-90: Colin Wears, John S Bonnington Partnership
1962/4 The translucent mesh net over the Snowdon Aviary is just a dotted line between the inside and outside as if there were no cage at all. Mesh, geometry, and structure all suggest the influence of Buckminster Fuller, of whom Price and Snowdon were great admirers. A concrete foundation and a footprint of 45 by 19m. The highest point is 24m. The materials used are high-tech in the early 1960s. A feather-light design while the complex tetrahedral aluminium frame is actually quite physical. The aviary had to be recognizable, maintenance-free, and large enough for birds to take flight. From a higher path on the north side and a lower on the south side, you look from the outside in. The Grade II listed (1998) structure is also the first walkthrough enclosure in Great Britain, designed to give birds and visitors unprecedented freedom of movement. A zigzag path runs through the centre featuring a cantilever bridge (which only has two support points on one side) to view the bird nests in the retaining wall between the two floors. At the end of 2016, news arrived that Foster + Partners will repair the aviary and transform it into a walkthrough enclosure featuring Colobus monkeys.
Architect: Lord Snowdon and Cedric Price
Engineer: Frank Newby
1962-65 Casson Pavilion In 1965, the RIBA award for the Best Building in London goes to Casson for this brutalist concrete structure for elephants and rhinos. Here, form follows function. Round pens without sharp angles. The structure has a remarkable sculptural form, just as sturdy and massive as the pachyderms. A good color palette with purple bricks around the raised outdoor area and copper conical roofs. The ribbed concrete walls evoke the elephant skin and prevent the animals from damaging themselves or the walls. The enclosures are situated around the central hall for the public. Visitors seem to look down through the tall green lanterns at the waterhole around which the herd gathers. A theatrical presentation. Natural light enters the elephant areas through funnels from above, while the visitor areas are kept dark according to the aquarium principle lighting. Nowadays, it is no longer a pachyderm house.
Sir Hugh Casson and Neville Conder and Partners following a brief by Desmond Morris
Between the Casson Pavilion, Mappin Café, and the Aquarium, the Tiger Territory peeks above the trees. A stainless steel cable network of only 10 kilos/sqm over remarkable circus big tops gives a transparent effect. Four main masts and a few smaller ones carry this lightweight net. The entire enclosure measures 2500 sqm and is a visual addition to the Mappin Terraces. Cost: £3.6m. The architects put the animals first keeping themselves in the shade. "Now, the emphasis is on animal welfare, bringing visitors as close to the creatures as possible. Our aim is to disappear," in Kozdon's words. The tigers have tall feeding poles, a view of Regent's Park, a pond, heated rocks, and quarters in the former Stork and Ostrich house. The visitor's platform at the sea lions has panoramic windows and steel plates against the sides and now looks out over the pseudo-Sumatran tiger habitat.
Architects: Wharmby Kozdon Architects
2021-2 From Snowdon Aviary to Monkey Valley! In Zoo Land Foster + Partners are known for the elephant house in Copenhagen Zoo. How did they refurbish the Snowdon Aviary? They upgraded the mesh (3,800 sqm!) of the tension structure with more pliable stainless steel. Cedric Price would have been pleased. Now, the four towering aluminum tetrahedrons are fully cleaned with all cables replaced. By means of temporary cables, everything remains intact during the operation. On the sloping north bank on the east side of the aviary, a cuboidal Monkey House is added with 2 high walking tunnels also above the pedestrian bridge. A partially submerged tunnel provides access to the duiker enclosure west of the aviary. A third new but detached structure is an education centre with a glazed south façade offering the best-unobstructed views of the monkey in the aviary. Within the aviary, there is a new small waterfowl enclosure on the ground floor. You see landscape changes, some safety interventions, staff at the entrance to and on the new pedestrian bridge (a one-strip road) along the canal, a 30ft waterfall, 800m of rope, and new vertical climbing objects to please the high-flying monkeys.
Architect: Foster + Partners
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.
Visit October 2019
A different house style of course, black and white has given way to green and white featuring animal images in the negative spaces of the word London. Also seen in zoo Cologne logo. Hurry, hurry to the Snowdon Aviary. To thoroughly refurbish a structure designed by Cedric Price... London just does it and they hire Foster + Parents for that. I am still too early, though, it will be completed in 2020. Who would they hire to refurbish the vacant Penguin Pool? Or are they going to blow it up as Lubetkin's daughter suggested? Still a geometric miracle. Haha, the text at the apes: "You're entering gorilla habitat, you'll have to think like a gorilla to track them down." Good announcement of the landscape immersion idea with which this enclosure was designed. You gorilla, me human being, immersed in gorilla land together. Land of the Lions has become Little India. Always wonder who really gets carried away in such a setting. The Mappin Terraces look surreal, a dream landscape on the edge of Regent's Park. Together with the bumpy Casson Pavilion and the circus cams of the tiger quarters a special skyline. The free birds on the circus roofs got themselves the best places. My son also had a feel-good moment: "You could stay here as long as you like."
Visit August 2023
After Pokémon GoFest in London, on to Wales for a Straydog party with Tom Waits fans. This combines nicely with the zoos in London and Chester, making this trip officially a zooliday! This time, I mainly want to fill in the gaps in my photo archive with the renovated Snowdon Aviary, the modernist Round House, and the modernist North Gate Kiosk. These three are in the same area on two sides of the Regent's Canal. I find the first two effortless, but the kiosk is grayed out on the map.
Finally, I see Snowdon's Aviary repurposed for a troop of Colobus monkeys. Fortunately, it is still that see-through enclosure, and the refurbishment contributes to its longevity! Architect Foster did it for free, by the way. Maybe because of the summer holiday peak but as a visitor, I feel pushed more through the new accommodation, past an employee at the entrance, a family in front of and behind me, the pedestrian route like a one-strip road, and through a lock with two doors.
The Round House is empty and closed but I have my pics!
I couldn't seem to get across the pedestrian bridge over the Regent's Canal. At the Colobus monkeys, I ask a helpful zoo worker where to get a glimpse of the North Gate Kiosk but I can't find a good photo location. If you take one of the two tunnels, you will reach the pedestrian bridge. I hear it has been closed since the start of the pandemic. Like a bird of prey, I keep circling until I meet the Chief Zoological Officer, who simply opens the gate for me, and I am well pleased. Many thanks, Chief! Tectons North Gate Kiosk is temporarily used as a storage area until a new master plan is implemented.
Zoo maps London
Numbers 2005 vs 2018
- Species: 850 vs 592
- Animals:12.000 vs 19.000
- 15 ha
- 2,5 vs 1,18 million a year
- 19th-century zoo
- Architect involved
- Listed structures
- Scientific zoo