Following the formation of the Zoological Society of London, the Society was given land in Regent’s Park by the Crown to house a collection of animals. ZSL London Zoo opened in 1828, and during the following 200 years many new buildings, enclosures and sculptures have been erected in the gardens.

To find out more about ZSL architecture and buildings, search the ZSL catalogue. Please note, the archive does not hold the plans of existing buildings as they are in active use.

Gorilla (Round) House

The Round (Gorilla) House is one of the first buildings to be built in the Modernist style in Britain and was designed by Russian émigré Berthold Lubetkin a member of the Tecton Group. Lubetkin and Tecton went on to design many zoo buildings, some here at London and at Whipsnade, together with Dudley Zoo in the Midlands. It was a bold step to introduce this new style of architecture which sought to present the animals to the public in a dramatic manner.

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The Giraffe House

The Giraffe House was built following the acquisition of London Zoo’s first four giraffes, Selim, Mabrouk, Guib-allah and Zaida. It was built in 1836–37 and designed by Decimus Burton. It was bomb damaged in 1940 and had to be mainly rebuilt 1960–63. It is a Grade II listed building. The giraffe enclosure featured a high-level viewing platform to give the public face-to-face contact with the giraffes. The 1837 Giraffe House is the oldest zoo building in the world still used for its original purpose.

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The Mappin Terraces

The Mappin Terraces were built in 1913–14 as ‘an installation for the panoramic display of wild animals’ in the form of artificial mountains. This ‘naturalistic’ approach to animal display, which derived from the work of Carl Hagenbeck in Hamburg, was intended to improve living conditions for the animals and viewing conditions for the visitors.

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The Reptile House

The Reptile House replaced a building of 1882–83, which was itself a replacement of the world’s first reptile house, built in 1849. It was built on the site of an Ape House of 1901–02, parts of which were incorporated. It was built 1926–27 and was designed by Joan Procter, Curator of Reptiles and architect Sir Edward Guy Dawber.

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The Northern Aviary

The Northern Aviary, widely known as the Snowdon Aviary, was the largest of the Zoo’s aviaries. An early example of a walkthrough aviary, its landscaping was integrated with the circulation system to allow visitors a close-up view of the birds. Lord Snowdon was commissioned to design the building in 1960. In July 2021, restoration work started on the aviary which will be repurposed to house colobus monkeys.

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ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

As the twentieth century dawned, the need to keep and study large animals in more natural surroundings became more apparent. Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell (ZSL Secretary 1903–1935) envisaged a new park no more than 70 miles from London, over 200 acres in size and easily accessible to the visiting public. In 1926 an ideal site was found, the derelict Hall Farm, near Whipsnade village, nearly 600 acres on the Chiltern Downs. ZSL purchased the farm in December 1926 and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo was established.

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