July 14, 2020

The Zoo Monument
Ira Koers
Antilope House Berlin, Ende and Bockmann architects

Panopticum

Once upon a time in the west lived a prince with a motley collection of exotic plants and animals. These were trophies and gifts that he received from kings and queens from all over the world. One day the prince wanted to display his living collection to parade before his high guests and impress them. He contracts the engraver who catalogues arts collections in public museums and publishes scientific novelty. The engraver literally re-translates Carolus Linnaeus’ system of classification based on the use of specimens, into a spatial diagram. The Systema Naturae is transformed to decorated walking spaces, with a spatial narrative tracing out the animals’ classes, orders, genders and species, characteristics and differences. The interior represents the ornate decoration of the human palace, as well as the social and political function of the building. The series of formal and hierarchical spaces are united by the act of walking. The animal palace becomes a space of observation.

collage Giraffe Garden

Simulacra

Once upon a time in the zoo lived twenty one antelopes together in a palace. The zebra, impala, springbok, gazelle, wildebeest and other cloven-hoofed peers were housed in rooms in the shape of equal wedges of an exotic fruit. These were situated around an indoor garden seperated by a human corridor. An unuasual palace far away from home. Unlike settlements on colonized land with homeland characteristics this hybrid palace appropriats features of distant places including nature and its inhabitants. One day on his round, the curator hears the antilopes mourning about their ancestors habitat. The wide savane, the fresh leafs, the speed of their bodies and life in a herd. The curator understands how the cinematic environment has conditioned his observations of the antelopes. He straight off opened all the doors in the palace and had the gardeners create a sandy plain in the citypark. The antelope house becomes a remnant with the backdrop of a simulated savana.

Antelope House dismantled

Monument

Somewhere upon a time in the future the herd gathers around the cathedral. Inside there is a ceremony celebrating the coherence of all species and where nature as a whole is the sensation and the exotic. The former antelope house is one of the hideouts in the city’s wild reserve. It starts raining. Past months have been very dry and pools of water remain in the sunken antelope chambers. Some giraffes join the ceremony and drink water. Others reach for some fresh leaves on the side of the path to the city where the oasis starts. Soon the zoo becomes a monument and sometime later a geological site similar to the bones of a dinosaur.

 

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