Icon 140: Zoos 08.01.15

Written by 
  • Bernard Tschumi at Parc Zoologique de Paris

  • Bjarke Ingels at Zootopia in Copenhagen

  • Charles Holland at London Zoo

Our new issue, out on 8 January, features Bernard Tschumi's updated Parc Zoologique de Paris, Bjarke Ingels's human zoo and Charles Holland's musings on modernism at London Zoo

Zoo architecture was traditionally a place of modernist experimentation; a style many in the 1930s didn't think quite good enough for humans was seen as suitable for beasts. In this issue we visit London Zoo, a place that offers an architectural as much as biological education.

The listed buildings dotted around the zoological garden create abstractions in concrete of wild habitats. My favourite is Berthold Lubetkin's Penguin Pool, with its double helix of slender ramps that emerge like ice from the water.

The ramps were apparently inspired by Russian contructivist stage sets. Unfortunately, this Antarctic theatre wasn't deemed suitable for London's small colony of penguins. The pool was drained and two porcupines moved in for a short time, but it is now simply a water feature, a shabby leftover from the zoo's glory days. Hugh Casson's Elephant and Rhino House, with its walls of pick-hammered concrete that resemble rugged hide, has also been abandoned (to tapirs).

Only Cedric Price and Lord Snowdon's proto-high-tech Aviary is still used for its original purpose. Zoos are once again looking to the best architects to help reinvent themselves for a more ecologically attuned century. At the Parc Zoologique de Paris, for example, Bernard Tschumi and Jacqueline Osty have created an enormous stage set of fake wilds in which a reduced cast of animals seems to roam free. The architects revel in this artifice by allowing visitors glimpses of the rigging that holds up the scenery.

And our cover star, Bjarke Ingels, has deconstructed the very idea of the zoo. In his design for a Danish theme park, a project he writes about here, the usual power relations are reversed: it is the humans that are caged.



Christopher Turner



quotes story

Zoos are once again looking to the best architects to help reinvent themselves for a more ecologically attuned century

FRONT Leader


Zoo de Vincennes The Paris park, home to giraffes, rhinos and Iberian wolves, gets an update by Bernard Tschumi

BIG's Zootopia Animals get free rein in Bjarke Ingels's radical concept for Givskud Zoo

A walk in London zoo Musing on modernism with a stroll around iconic enclosures by Lubetkin, Price and Casson


Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Jony Ive on Apple and good design, DSDHA's Covert House, AOC's reading room at the Wellcome Collection, Studio Glithero and Space Caviar at Biennale Interieur, Shanghai's Long Museum West Bund by Atelier Deshaus, Gates Hall by Morphosis, and Dominic Wilcox at Design Indaba

Reviews Aalto at the Vitra Design Museum, the Barbican's Constructing Worlds, a study of the flourishing field of sound studies, and the Istanbul Design Biennial

Rethink Studio Output's take on the blood bank
Icon of the Month The Post Office Tower
Five Most Wanted Study O Portable's favourite objects
Crimes Against Design The Internet of Things


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