Less a building

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Less a building: Interactions with the London Zoo Aviary

“The aviary was less a building in the conventional sense than a set of spatial possibilities created via an inherently flexible structural system.” – Owen Hopkins

Realised by Cedric Price, Lord Snowdon and Frank Newby in the mid-1960s, the landmark London Zoo Aviary is known for its pioneering tensile structure, its immersive and sensory qualities and its architectural paradoxes of permanence/plasticity, transparency/opacity and openness/enclosure.
Less a building takes the hiatus of the aviary’s redevelopment in the early 2020s as an opportunity to consider the structure anew, exposing it as a powerful catalyst for experimental thinking and making.

Ten site-responsive artworks and texts are presented alongside an in-depth roundtable between six architects and writers, and documents from the Cedric Price and London Zoo archives. Posing questions around cultivated habitats and curated landscapes, and asking what the aviary has come to represent in architectural, zoological and environmental terms, the project proposes a set of new, interconnecting
and open-ended readings of an important piece of twentieth century design to mark this pivotal moment in its history.

  • Includes previously unpublished notes by Cedric Price for a talk given at the Architectural Association in November 1981.

  • New writing by Tim Dee (Greenery, Penguin, 2021), Helen Jukes (A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings, Scribner, 2018), Polly Gould (Antarctica,Art and Archive, Bloomsbury, 2020) and Matthew Turner (Other Rooms, Dodo Ink, 2020).

  • Roundtable discussion with: Marcela Aragüez (architect and Assistant Professor of Architecture, IE University, Madrid-Segovia), Phillip Hall-Patch (artist and architect), Owen Hopkins (Director,
    Farrell Centre at Newcastle University),
    Michaela Nettell (artist), Hadas Steiner (Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY), Karolina Szynalska (Senior Lecturer, Lincoln School of Architecture and the Built Environment) and Matthew Turner (writer).

  • A dialogue in six paper models by Michaela Nettell and Ana Ruepp.

  • Planning application documents by Alex Hartley outlining proposals to preserve the fabric and form of the Grade II* listed aviary by repurposing it as an anaerobic digester.

  • Images of new crystal forms by Julie F Hill, generated by a machine learning algorithm trained on images of minerals that relate to the aviary’s pyramidal structure.

  • Cyanotype prints by Milena Michalski, hand-processed and toned using homemade, organic solutions.

  • Text by Marcela Aragüez on the aviary as exemplar of Cedric Price’s paradoxical design strategy, ‘calculated uncertainty’.

  • Notes on the aviary’s planting plan by Colin Priest, explored through a five-layered, geometric design for book endpapers.

  • Design by Marit Münzberg with section sewn binding, fold-out elements and five, 100 x 100mm inserts.

  • A research project and publication by Michaela Nettell with: Marcela Aragüez,Tim Dee, Polly Gould, Alex Hartley, Julie F Hill, Helen Jukes, Milena Michalski, Colin Priest, Ana Ruepp and Matthew Turner
  • Paperback, full colour

  • 130 x 190mm, 130pp. Cover on Colorplan Adriatic 270gsm; inside pages on Mohawk Everyday 118gsm; inserts on Offenbach Bible 60gsm
    ISBN: 978-1-7399141-0-3
    Published by Passengers, September 2021

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