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Elephant and Rhinoceros Pavilion, London Zoo

A Grade II* Listed Building in Regent's Park, London

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Latitude: 51.5346 / 51°32'4"N

Longitude: -0.1546 / 0°9'16"W

OS Eastings: 528094

OS Northings: 183354

OS Grid: TQ280833

Mapcode National: GBR 94.G2

Mapcode Global: VHGQS.8PNG

Plus Code: 9C3XGRMW+R5

Entry Name: Elephant and Rhinoceros Pavilion, London Zoo

Listing Date: 12 June 1998

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1323694

English Heritage Legacy ID: 469315

Location: Regent's Park, Westminster, London, NW1

County: London

District: City of Westminster

Electoral Ward/Division: Regent's Park

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: City of Westminster

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Marylebone

Church of England Diocese: London

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 29/05/2020

TQ 2883 SW

Elephant and Rhinoceros Pavilion, London Zoo

Animal house. Designed 1961, built 1962-1965 by Sir Hugh Casson, Neville Conder and Partners; Jenkins and Potter engineers; landscape architect Peter Shepheard; in consultation with F.A.P Stengelhofen, architect to the Zoological Society of London. Reinforced concrete, with ribbed walls in three main pours - the rubbed texture designed to prevent the animals rubbing up against them and injuring either party and inner brick skin; conical copper roofs.

The complex is set within walls, ditch and raised paddock enclosure of purple brick, with purple brick paviours and plinth. Internally the animal pens are lined in mosaic, whilst the public spaces are spanned by laminated wood beams set in metal shoes. The tough finishes are carefully considered, tactile and well detailed, and are an important component of the buildings exceptional quality.

Complex concave form designed to resemble 'animals drinking at a pool', the pavilion was designed to house four elephants and four rhinoceroses in paired pens, each with access to sick-bay pens and to moated external paddocks. Heavy double doors to entrance, reached via steps for public; slit windows to staff areas only, the others incorporated as skylights. The pens are arranged round a central hall for the public, who circulate through the building at a slightly lower level on an S-Shaped route, with sunken viewing area and integral fixed benches between them and the animals. The pens themselves are circular, reflecting the turning movements of the animals and avoiding sharp corners or spaces difficult to clean. The pens are top-lit, the funnels combining light with extract fans, and the public spaces kept dark; the effect has been likened to a theatrical cyclorama. Elephant bathing area and keeper's mess room - the latter said to be the only area whose form is not the logical consequence of functional requirements.

The Elephant and Rhino Pavilion was one of the earliest and most important buildings erected at London Zoo following Stengelhofen and Casson's Redevelopment Plan of 1956 (q.v. Snowdon Aviary), commissioned by Lord Zuckermann. It reflects Casson and Conder's long experience of exhibition design, for it was conceived deliberately 'to display these massive animals in the most dramatic way' (Zoological Societys press release, January 1962). In this the building continues the idiom established so successfully he neighbouring Penguin Pool (Lubetkin and Tecton, q.v), with the architecture of the buildings reflecting the character of the animals they house, and encouraging them to display themselves. 'Elephants are such architectural animals that there is a temptation to look at a building housing them as a kind of analogy of themselves. This building, for example, could be described in terms of its massive curves, its wrinkled hide and its curious silhouette', wrote J M Richards in the 'Architectural Review'. The contrast between this and the featherweight, soaring form of the Snowdon Aviary is telling. No wonder that Ian Nairn likened the Zoo to an 'architectural Tower of Babel'. There is a debt, too, to Tecton's circular elephant pens at Whipsnade Zoo, rather than to the same firm's unbuilt scheme for London of 1938.

The Elephant and Rhino Pavilion is the most mature, carefully considered and richly detailed of a succession of British zoo buildings from the period 1931-1965, and the finest permanent building by one of the leading architectural firms of the period. Sir Hugh himself described it as 'a saucy building'; others have admired the close relationship between public and animals, the practical materials and sculptural shape. 'The technique with which [the building] has been done, depending first on lighting, secondly on scale and thirdly on colour, is masterly' (Architectural Review, July 1965).

Listing NGR: TQ2809483354

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