The Architectural Nature of the London Zoological Society at Regent’s Park

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This chapter focuses on key elements of zoological typology established during the formation of the world’s first official zoo, The Gardens of the London Zoological Society at Regent’s Park. Embodying the prevailing ideas of nature and morality of the time, the architectural layout of the London Zoo both influenced and reflected cultural understandings of the natural world. Much of the interpretation of the zoo as an objective institution, detached from whims of cultural practice, is born out of its association with science. From the outset, the zoo was primarily defined as a scientific institution in an intentional distinction from a menagerie, which was disparagingly considered to be a collection of animals solely maintained for entertainment without any scientific purpose or research. This paper takes the position, however, that scientific practice exists within a cultural context of place and place in time. Current thinking has established that the scientific profession, early in its commencement, established a complex, on-going relationship with architecture by gaining credibility through built form and place. Scientific practice used architecture to legitimise the profession and the knowledge being produced. Thus, the early stages of the zoological garden as a scientific endeavour also had a similarly interwoven relationship with architecture and place, and therefore culture. Using the formation of The Gardens of the London Zoological Society at Regent’s Park as a case study, this paper argues that the establishment of the zoo as a scientific institution placed it within a cultural framework that was made manifest in the architectural typology of the zoo, there-by embodying and reinforcing social interpretations of nature and wilderness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWho’s Talking Now?
Subtitle of host publicationMultispecies Relations Analysis from Humans and Animals’ Point of View
EditorsChiara Blanco, Bel Deering
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-84888-376-5
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • architecture
  • zoological gardens
  • nature
  • morality
  • animals
  • history
  • culture
  • science

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