Elephant House and enclosure reconstruction
1146 Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 12.
Budapest Award of Architectural Excellence, medal and award certificate, 1999
The House of Pachydermata, built in 1912, was designed by the architect Kornél Neuschloss, combining motifs from African and Indian architecture as reference to the place of origin of the animals with a special Art Nouveau concept. The ensemble, mutilated a few years later with the demolition of the minaret, finally regained its original splendor in an exemplary manner by the turn of the millennium.
Kornél Neuschloss achieved a magical effect by using pyro-granite ornaments from the Zsolnay factory, enamel tiles, eosin-glazed animal figures, stained glass windows and natural stones from various mines. The interior is decorated with floral ornamentation and stylized animal-shaped paintings surrounded by a geometric pattern. The oriental influence was exacerbated by the 31-meter-high minaret, which, however, had to be demolished in 1915 as the Turkish government, allied in World War I, declared through diplomacy that the presence of an Islamic cult symbol on an animal house was undesirable. The Elephant House was restored between 1996 and 1999 based on documents of the time of construction. The dismantled lookout tower was reconstructed in an authentical way, using the method of photogrammetry, and its structure was also reinforced. As the tower stairs are too narrow, public flow to the gallery level is possible on the new side stairs. From here, a reinforced concrete tower staircase leads to the lookout gallery – interrupted with landings for some rest. The decorations of the lookout gallery (carved beams, slats, braces, etc.) are identical to the decorations of the Elephant House. The roofing is made of special blue glazed tiles and copper plates made according to the original plans of the Zsolnay factory. The structural design and detailing are carefully and well implemented. The organization of the extended animal enclosure, the partitions made of retaining wall, and the landscaping solutions are professionally and beautifully solved, the choice of the finish and cladding materials and the construction testify to the designers’ demand for high quality worthy of the original beauty of the Zoo. The Elephant House is an exemplary reconstruction.
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