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Llowarch Llowarch creates new home for Tower of London ravens

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Construction has completed on this 46m² enclosure designed by Llowarch Llowarch Architects for the ravens at the Tower of London 

ARCHITECT’S VIEW • PROJECT DATA

The oak slatted structure sits on the edge of a grassy slope in the Tower’s inner most ward - a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Scheduled Ancient Monument.

According to the practice, the provision of a safe and comfortable habitat for the birds is ’of national importance as legend tells that the Kingdom will fall if the ravens ever leave the Tower’.

Commissioned by the Historic Royal Palaces, the scheme is part of an on-going programme of improvements to the visitor experience at the Tower.

Practice co-founder Nicola Llowarch said: ’Ravens are highly intelligent birds. Unlike an aviary, the birds have free rein of the Tower during the day. Openings in the rear of the new enclosures allow the ravens free access to come and go. At night these are closed for the ravens’ own protection.

’Given their status as a top attraction, the ravens also needed to be highly visible. An important premise was that the birds should be seen against the backdrop of the historic setting, hence maintaining transparency through the enclosure was important.’

She added: ’We worked closely with the Ravenmaster, Tower of London and with specialist input from the Zoological Manager and Curator of Birds, ZSL London Zoo.

’It’s been fascinating. I now know some of the ravens by name, and their different habits and personalities – there is one that likes to play dead which is a little alarming!’

Llowarch Llowarch Architects' raven enclosure at the Tower of London

Llowarch Llowarch Architects’ raven enclosure at the Tower of London

Source: Edmund Sumner

Architect’s view

The completed enclosure comprises a series of oak slatted structures running perpendicular to the grass slope. The oak structures contain the ravens’ sleeping boxes. The open spaces between are covered by ultra-fine stainless steel mesh creating four secure recreation areas for the birds. When viewed from the front, the simple but highly crafted wood structures frame the birds in their setting, presenting them against the backdrop of the iconic White Tower. Large sliding screens to the rear provide access to the open sections of the enclosures whilst maintaining transparency through.

Restrained detailing was a key element of our approach. The enclosure’s design evolved through a series of models at various scales, an intentional process of repeated studies of simplification and refinement aiming to minimise the impact of the structure in this historic setting. Vertical oak slats bring an implied translucency in contrast to the stone boundary, as well as bringing an intimacy of scale and texture. A restrained palette of oak and stainless steel netting makes the enclosure a sensitive and appropriate addition to the World Heritage Site.

Our selection of materials references their historic use at the Tower. Timber structures are believed to have occupied the site before the expansion of the Royal Lodgings beyond the White Tower in the thirteenth century. The Raven Enclosure was designed to exaggerate the innate qualities of each material and the architects worked very closely with the craftsmen in a collaborative process of making and approval which involved regular visits to the manufactures workshop rather than the traditional, more distant process of reviewing and approving shop drawings.

In line with the brief, a new timber deck provides space for expanded programme of educational talks and workshops. The roof is also an important elevation as the enclosure is highly visible from the Wall Walk and White Tower steps. Contextually its height continues in line with the plateau of the lawn over the Ravens Shop adjacent.

Llowarch Llowarch Architects' raven enclosure at the Tower of London

Llowarch Llowarch Architects’ raven enclosure at the Tower of London

Source: Edmund Sumner

Project data

Location HM Tower of London, Inmost Ward
Type of project cultural
Funding Historic Royal Palaces (Independent Charity)
Tender date October 2014
Start on site June 2015 
Completion November 2015 
Form of contract JCT Construction Excellence Form of Contract 
Client Historic Royal Palaces
Architect Llowarch Llowarch Architects 
Structural engineer Hockley & Dawson Consulting Engineers
Main contractor Ward & Co (Building Conservation) 

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