Tectons in the spotlight

DZG’s iconic Tectons were put under the spotlight when members of Twentieth Century Society toured.

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Twenty-five visitors were welcomed by DZG architect and Twentieth Century Society West Midlands committee member Larry Priest who gave a presentation about the Heritage Lottery funded project to repair four of our Modernist structures.

Following the introduction, which took place in the Tecton Interpretation area adjacent to the Safari Shop, the group took part in a walk and talk around the 40-acre site to visit the 12 Tectons, as our Construction Supervisor, Carlo Diponio explained about the ongoing repair work.

Carlo said: “The event was an absolute success and the visitors seemed to really enjoy discovering all about this unique project and the work we’re putting into preserving and lovingly restoring the Tectons back to their former glory.”

During the tour the group, who campaign for the preservation of twentieth century architectural heritage, visited the Bear Ravine – recently removed from the Heritage at Risk Register – as well as witnessing ongoing concrete repair work at the Tecton Reptillary, which is now home to our meerkat mob.

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Twentieth Century Society Chair, Anna Douglas, said: “The Society were extremely impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of all the zoo staff who helped to make our day architecturally inspiring and a great day out.

“We were particularly impressed with the innovative approach to the restoration work and how it was carried out, under great financial pressure. And the team who undertook the work were obviously passionate and made it all possible, to a high standard. 

“We see huge potential for the zoo to market itself as an important Twentieth Century historic architectural destination in the future, a strategy we believe could pay off.”

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DZG has the world’s largest single collection of Tecton structures, designed by Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin and constructed between 1935-37 using a specialist system of reinforced concrete.

The 12, which include Entrance, Safari Shop, Bear Ravine, Kiosk One, Polar Bear Triple Complex, Queen Mary Restaurant, Elephant House, Kiosk Two, Sealion Pool, Reptiliary, Tropical Bird House & Discovery Centre, were granted World Monuments Fund Status in 2009. 

Restoration work has been undertaken for the first time on four of DZG’s structures – the Safari Shop, the eye-catching entrance, bear ravine and kiosk one – thanks to the funding from Heritage Lottery.

Repair work has also been carried out by DZG’s in-house concrete specialists on the sealion pools and meerkat enclosure.