When the Bronx Zoo recently called lights out on the World of Darkness, I was disappointed. That’s not to say I was surprised: It’s news to nobody that the Bronx — like almost every other zoo, aquarium, museum, college, industry, company, household, individual — isn’t exactly flush right now, and something had to give. But though the loss of the nocturnal animals is a significant one, the exhibit’s closing was noteworthy for another reason. When it comes to zoo buildings, the World of Darkness is one of the most fascinating.

The World of Darkness was built in 1969. It has no windows, and from above looks like a giant letter C; the exterior is made up of tall, narrow gray stone panels of varying heights, which pitch inward. Unlike a lot of the other things you… More…

 

The Bronx Zoo’s historic Lion House is no more. The 1903 Beaux-Arts building still stands, but the felines long ago moved on to greener pastures beyond the zoo’s original Astor Court; their expulsion was recently made permanent with the opening of Madagascar! in the great cats’ former haunts.

Madagascar! represents everything a modern zoo aspires to be. The new exhibit celebrates biodiversity and trumpets a message of conservation and scientific leadership, from the zoo’s role in establishing nature reserves on the island nation to “eco-friendly building features such as hi-tech skylights and water recycling.” It was able to get Bank of America to pony up financial support for the month-long opening celebration. And with that official explanation point, it may have doomed quaint but less evocative exhibit titles like World of Reptiles, Sea Bird Aviary, and Mouse House.

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