Buildings for elephants necessarily curtail the inhabitants’ freedom, as they usually roam around six miles a day across the savannah. However, these animals are also accustomed to a certain degree of warmth and dryness, and so when transplanted to colder climes they need a roof over their heads. This problem was addressed by Virgilio Cestari, who created a fantastic Hindu temple for the elephants at Buenos Aires Zoo in 1904, and more recently by Hugh Casson, who completed the corduroy concrete elephant house at London Zoo in 1964. When Copenhagen Zoo’s 1914 temple-fronted elephant house was deemed inadequate for the needs of the animals, Foster + Partners, who were commissioned to build the replacement, started from scratch, studying the behaviour and requirements of the creatures. Twin domed structures were sunk into the ground, with misters to keep the residents’ hides moist and underfloor heating to prevent trench foot. Outside, a large enclosure with a pool gives them somewhere to stretch their legs. This potted history of the elephant house traces a miniature narrative of architecture, from historicist temples, both of which have been rejected as unsuitable, via Casson’s monumental Modernism, also vacated for safety reasons after one of the elephants trampled a keeper to death, to a less monumental, more animal-centred design. The next step is the elimination of architecture, as zoos are shut down for good.
Elephant house at copenhagen zoo by foster+partners drawings
This case study is part of Typology: Building for animals. Read the full article here