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Is There Room For Historic Zoo Architecture?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Zooplantman, 22 Oct 2014.

  1. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    The discussion about the "outdated" London Zoo (https://www.zoochat.com/community/posts/822806) and my own recent visit to ZooAntwerpen make me wonder: Is there any room for a historic zoo?

    I was thrilled to see ZooAntwerpen's "Egyptian Temple" elephant house but saddened to see the elephants and giraffes there. For the zoo to remain viable and supportable, which must go? The architecture or the animals?

    While I worked at the Bronx Zoo, many remaining architectural and landscape features of its century of history were purposely demolished and lost simply to wipe out the old zoo. Is that the only or even the best way forward for old zoos?
     
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  2. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    There is absolutely room for historical architecture in zoos, be they animal houses/pavilions, individual cages/enclosures or other buildings. Older establishments should hold on to some of their history, at least to show people how far they have come. Melbourne Zoo have old cages (http://www.zoochat.com/51/melbourne-zoo-2008-historic-listed-cage-136037/) that no longer hold any living species, while Auckland Zoo has turned their Old Elephant House into a function centre, and repurposed their old giraffe house for a tarantula display!

    Obviously not all historical exhibits can be saved, and some should go where a zoo needs the space, or for other reasons. Where a zoo has huge historical importance (London, Vienna), I feel their historical exhibits should be restored and used for suitable species as much as possible.
     
  3. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    In answer to the question - yes, of course!

    It is the history of a place that gives it its character. Of course - and this goes without saying - the needs of the animals come first. But, so long as those needs are satisfied (as well as the needs of the animals' keepers) then having old buildings of architectural or historical merit can be wonderful.

    Antwerp Zoo's "Egyptian Temple" is mentioned above, with the implication being that while it is beautiful (it is!) it is not ideal as an animal exhibit. For an animal that has fairly functional requirements, such as a giraffe, I think this is ideal - and give me the "temple" over the deeply uninspiring barns that are seen at, say, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Duisburg, or Africa Alive.....
     
  4. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    I'm also a "fan" of old zoo architecture and like zooboy28 says, place - if the enclosures are not suitible for the original animals other more sutible animals in it. The elephant-encloure by Antwerps Egyptian Temple may be to small to hold elephants but for some smaller hoofstock, rodents, cranes or other smaller species the enclosure would be very fine ! In fact Antwerp already did some of this by placing small kangaroos in 2 of the indoor-enclosures which were in older days used for - if I remember right - rhinos.
    In this way many old architctual stuctures can be saved so visitors can get an impresion of the development of zoos.
     
  5. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I think historic zoo architecture can be preserved in a zoo which has space to build new animal exhibits nearby.

    Historic elephant house at Antwerp is I think now converted into a posh restaurant (at least such were the plans).

    One trend which doesn't work is half-converting historic houses into modern animal exhibit. Naturalistic parts often are in jarring contrast with historic architecture. Rows of old cages linked together, or different sized rooms and spaces linked and filled with bark mulch and branches simply look ugly. There are often also elements of modernistic architecture (aviaries etc) which fits neither with natural nor historic elements. Budapest zoo and Amsterdam Zoo are such a visual mess.

    Several zoos have museum-like exhibitions inside old historic houses.

    I would imagine that some zoo commissions models of extinct animals, and puts them in a row of historic zoo cages. Show Californian grizzly, Javan tiger, thylacine, Falkland Islands wolf, dodo, moa etc. in an exhibition themed on conservation. This would make terribly effective conservation message and be one-off in a zoo world.
     
    Last edited: 23 Oct 2014
  6. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I think this is a very nice idea!
    :)
     
  7. Buldeo

    Buldeo Well-Known Member

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    I agree, but lately I've been considering on whether or not San Francisco could repurpose the ~80 year old lion house, and use it as the backbone of a new, fully modern tiger habitat. Specifically speaking, reversing the current arrangement. Guests would still enter the lion house, but instead of the current cages, there would floor-to-ceiling glass panels looking out on a lush recreation of a Sumatran rainforest. (It would probably be wiser/easier to build a temperate, deciduous forest for Amur tigers.)

    Modern cat management facilities would then be built into the rear wall of the new habitat. I thought about putting them below, but that might not be the greatest idea in earthquake prone California.


    A gift shop and conservation station would round out the facilities quite nicely, but jarring sight lines are avoided and the zoo gets to keep its historic building while the tigers get a brand new habitat. In this instance, the zoo might even gain a few hundred square feet of exhibit space.

    But to answer the original question: Yes -- of course! It's all in how you're going to use that historic architecture.

    Just knock down that Egyptian Temple and presto you have a home for Bengal Tigers! You just know they love old temple ruins.
     
  8. elefante

    elefante Well-Known Member

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    Detroit makes good use of old architecture. The giraffe house is an old building that still suits the needs of the occupants. As long as the animals are still cared for I see no reason to fix what's not broken.
     
  9. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    There is clearly room for historic architecture in zoos but it seems that in the United States very few zoological establishments actually endorse that idea. Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle is 115 years old but there is nothing remotely historical about the facility and in fact 90% of the exhibits have been built during the past 40 years. Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma is 110 years old but other than the decrepit, 1960's-era North Pacific Aquarium the entire zoo has basically been built during the past 30 years. The list goes on as I only chose the two geographically closest zoos of the many American establishments that I've visited.

    Often old structures in U.S. zoos are demolished in favour of modern, updated models and there is a distinct lack of historical architecture in zoos along the entire western coast of the nation. Some American zoos have iconic elements of history that are famous, such as Cincinnati's Reptile House or Philadelphia's entrance, but for the most part old sections of zoos are bulldozed and replaced by modern developments. I'd honestly enjoy visiting zoos like Hamburg, Vienna and Antwerp as the incorporation of history into a zoo tour would be most enjoyable but that concept is far more prevalent in Europe than it is in other locations. That is not just a reflection on zoos but on all buildings in major cities.
     
  10. reduakari

    reduakari Well-Known Member

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    San Francisco Zoo is full of architectural relics from the WPA era (1930s), some of which could be argued to have historical merit, although almost entirely lacking in zoological/modern exhibitry value.
     
  11. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I suppose that San Francisco Zoo would be the one west-coast zoological establishment that does have some notable WPA era buildings. Glancing through my Images of America history book I notice that "future director Edmund Heller teamed with architect Lewis Hobart to design 10 WPA exhibits". Bear dens, Aviary: Aquatic Birds, Monkey Island, Lion House, Mother's House, Central Plaza Fountain and Pachyderm House were all built during that era, but of course not all are still standing today.
     
  12. reduakari

    reduakari Well-Known Member

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    Despite the best efforts of several earthquakes and a few unfulfilled master plans, all but one of these (monkey island) are still standing.
     
  13. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Vienna begs to differ...

    As for extinct animal models: nice idea, and already realized in some zoos. Unless the model is somehow spectacular and offers a good photo opportunity or climbing possibility for kids, most people just walk by to get to the real, living animals.
     
  14. lintworm

    lintworm Moderator Staff Member

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    Vienna (and in the last years also Amsterdam) show that there for sure is place for historic buildings in zoos.

    Another thing is that at leastin Europe many old buildings are listed as monuments and as such cannot be replaced. Amsterdam has 28 monumental buildings in their zoo....
     
  15. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Interesting, although as you pointed out earlier on this thread those developments still in place are almost totally lacking in modern/zoological exhibitry value. Is the original Aviary now the Tropical House? Is the Mother's House still open to the public? It seems to me that an enormous overhaul of the Lion House (similar to what the Bronx did with Madagascar) would be hugely beneficial to the zoo but in the case of San Francisco money and unfulfilled dreams have derailed many plans over the years.
     
  16. Shirokuma

    Shirokuma Well-Known Member

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    I think Central Park Zoo is a nice (unique?) example of a zoo that was completely redesigned and continues to develop whilst maintaining its historic structure.