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Snowdon Aviary, London Zoo
Regent's Park, London NW1, UK
Snowdon Aviary, London Zoo
associated engineer
Frank Newby
date  1960 - 1963
UK era  Modern  |  category  Aviary/Enclosure  |  reference  TQ277836
photo  Jane Joyce
The rich design heritage of London Zoo dates back to 1827, when Decimus Burton first laid out the grounds and designed various buildings. In 1960, Lord Snowdon undertook the creation of the aviary that now bears his name. The designer selected was the visionary architect, Cedric Price, and the engineer, Frank Newby.
Cedric Price was closely associated with the Architectural Association in London, where he was a lecturer. Frank Newby had only recently taken on the leadership of F.J.Samuely & Partners after Felix Samuely died in 1959.
This design team produced a daring structure that reflected the excitement and spontaneity that had characterised the nation’s spirit of optimism a decade earlier with the Festival of Britain. Indeed, Samuely’s ingenious tension structure for the festival's Skylon mast was a forerunner of the tension structure Newby developed for the aviary.
This quasi-building — essentially a netted enclosure for large birds — required new design solutions to achieve an obstacle-free volume that allowed the birds unimpeded flight. Technological innovations include the use of aluminium castings, stainless steel forgings and lightweight welded mesh.
The netting is attached to tension cables that run length-wise in the rectalinear structure. They are anchored on the ground at the corners by assemblies of tetrahedral (four-face) tubular compression structures. The 'roof' consists of a pair of cross-over cables running along the apex of the enclosure, also length-wise. It is supported by pairs of tubular steel columns, each pair forming a giant 'V', which hold the cables in tension. The cable/net structure of the whole is clearly expressed though the use of steel compression members and cables in tension.
In the 1960s, Cedric Price had advocated buildings that could adapt and change according to circumstance; buildings that need not be permanent. It's ironic, then, that one of the small number of his schemes that was realised should form part of the proud heritage of design and engineering dating back nearly two centuries that belongs to the Royal Zoological Society.
Architect: Cedric Price
Research: ND
"New British Architecture" by Jonathan Glancey
Thames and Hudson, London, 1989

Snowdon Aviary, London Zoo