Less a building: Interactions with the London Zoo Aviary
A research project and publication by Michaela Nettell with: Marcela Aragüez, Tim Dee, Polly Gould, Phillip Hall-Patch, Alex Hartley, Julie F Hill, Owen Hopkins, Helen Jukes, Milena Michalski, Colin Priest, Ana Ruepp, Hadas Steiner, Karolina Szynalska and Matthew Turner.
Published by Passengers
, September 2021
Paperback, full colour
130 x 190mm, 130pp.
Cover on Colorplan Adriatic 270gsm; inside pages on Mohawk Everyday 118gsm; inserts on Offenbach Bible 60gsm
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"The aviary was less a building in the conventional sense than a set of spatial possibilities created by an inherently flexible structural system."
– Owen Hopkins, 2016
Realised by Cedric Price, Antony Armstrong-Jones 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 a roundtable between six architects, writers and academics, 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- Includes previously unpublished notes by Cedric Price for a talk given at the Architectural Association in November 1981.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 6 paper models by Michaela Nettell & 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 5-layered, geometric design for book endpapers.
- Design by Marit Münzberg with section sewn binding, fold-out elements and five, 100 x 100mm inserts.
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Images: 1. Less a building (digital mockup); 2. Unknown photographer,View of London Zoo Aviary, gelatin silver print, 1965 or after, Cedric Price fonds, Canadian Centre for Architecture; 3. Ana Ruepp, Not of transparency exactly (6), ink, spray paint and collage on folded card, 2020. Photo: Michaela Nettell