Land of the Lions

Paragon creates some stunning rock work for London Zoos Asiatic lion enclosure

In March 2016, Her Majesty The Queen opened ‘Land of the Lions’, the new Asiatic lion enclosure at ZSL London Zoo. The 2,500sqm enclosure, dominated by three walkways, has immersive Indian themed areas to explore and allows visitors to get closer that ever to the mighty lions.

Paragon Creative were contracted to create approximately 850m2 of rock and stonework to form the temple ruins and the train station. We also supplied theming and props to help reflect the detail of the Indian originals. This included a ranger’s tent, a campfire and camp equipment, railway station packing cases, railway signal and a series of railway signs.

Designed by Ray Hole Architects and the Zoo’s in-house exhibit developers, the project was inspired by the landscape of the Indian Gir Forest region, from which the Asiatic lions originate. The locals live extremely close to the lions and their paths cross on an almost daily basis as the lions wander into the villages. The theming of the area is based around this concept.

For this project we developed techniques that we had not tried before, particularly with regard to the mixing and combining of materials for the scenery. We also produced a lot of the main rockwork armatures off site and transported them to site to then secure to the as-built block work walls prior to meshing up and applying the Themecrete finish. This was another first for us, which proved to be very effective!

The most challenging aspects of the project were the logistics and the sheer magnitude of the workscope. For example, during the course of the project over 120 tonnes of concrete were shipped to site, unloaded then applied by our team. We were working on a very busy site on some quite challenging terrain but our experienced install teams have worked on a wide range of sites over the years and handled the install difficulties very well.

The final result was breathtaking. We particularly loved the theming we applied to the Temple Clearing, which is a special viewing area themed as a crumbling Indian Temple, with a 180 view into the lions’ enclosure. Here special high-tension wires are used as a barrier between the visitors and the lions. The size, architectural complexity and finish of this area is stunning.

Since Land of the Lions opened, we have been contacted by another major UK Zoo, who have seen what we achieved at ZSL London Zoo. This is the biggest compliment that we can receive as a company and our team is absolutely delighted by the result.

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