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Foster + Partners' evolution of iconic London Zoo aviary gets green light

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We will ensure the preservation of an iconic structure and honour its distinguished authors from the past, while preserving a unique built example of Cedric Price’s work
– Norman Foster

Foster + Partners’ plans to reinvigorate the famous Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo have received planning approval from Westminster Council.

The Grade II listed structure, designed by Cedric Price with Frank Newby and Lord Snowdon in 1962, was the first aviary in Britain that gave visitors a ‘walk-through’ experience, bringing them closer to the birds in their natural habitat.

The attraction was recently added to Historic England’s Risk Register for structures in danger of falling into disrepair due to the high expense of necessary repairs compared with the likely end value. In response, the Zoological Society of London, which runs the zoo, secured Heritage Lottery funding to conduct the research and planning phase for a renovation project.

Foster + Partners’ new design adapts the aviary’s structure to suit its new inhabitants – a troop of colobus monkeys and parrots – and offers visitors an enhanced experience. It replicates their natural habitat, “with a series of vertical elements at different heights that the monkeys can climb onto, encouraging them to leap, jump, and swing to the higher levels of the aviary.”

“The rebirth of the Snowdon Aviary continues our work with historical structures,” said studio founder Norman Foster. “It’s about the fusion of the old and new, but also about repurposing this extraordinary structure. The brand-new walk-through home will allow it to extend its role for decades to come.

“It will ensure the preservation of an iconic structure and honour its distinguished authors from the past, while preserving a unique built example of Cedric Price’s work.”

The proposal also features an education and community space for zoo visitors capable of hosting up to 30 people, where they will learn about both the monkeys and the architectural legacy of the zoo.

Zoological director Professor David Field said: “We’re delighted that the council has recognised the value of the restoration, and has granted us planning permission to carry out this exciting work.

"Our plans for the aviary will both improve its use as an important habitat for our animals and ensure it serves as an educational hub for the millions of people who visit the zoo to be inspired by wildlife - while recognising its heritage status and prominent position on the Regent’s Canal.”

The Regent’s Park Conservation Area Advisory Committee had objected to the plans, saying that the “location, scale and character” of the proposal could cause harm to the structure. However, their arguments have not swayed the council.

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Foster + Partners’ plans to reinvigorate the famous Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo have received planning approval from Westminster Council.
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Foster + Partners’ new design adapts the aviary’s structure to suit its new inhabitants – a troop of colobus monkeys and parrots – and offers visitors an enhanced experience / Foster + Partners

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