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The Frozen Zoo at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Part 1 Project 2012
Robyn Poulson
University of Sheffield Sheffield UK
The Frozen Zoo at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

“The earth is currently suffering the greatest loss of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs.” The Frozen Ark, Nottingham

The theme of this project maintains the strong history of conservation and working landscape within the Hardwick Estate, the rich Elizabethan setting of Hardwick Hall, constructed in 1597. The Hall is now a National Trust site and great care is taken to maintain and conserve the Hall, ponds, agricultural land, woodland and biodiversity, for the future.

However, studies into animal species around the ponds have shown a number of endangered species.

Building on the existing conservation work at Hardwick Hall the Frozen Zoo is designed to conserve animal DNA in order to reduce the future loss of biodiversity. The site, on the Row Ponds, has views back to Hardwick Hall and across the valley. The Frozen Zoo itself has two key purposes.

Firstly, it catalogues and preserves samples of frozen wildlife animal cells (not exclusively endangered).

Buried vertically down, under the banks of the Row Ponds, in a deep concrete vault to create a stable climatic environment, animal cells are freeze dried and maintained at -26°C inside sealed glass vials. Recent developments in molecular biology mean that, in the future, animals can be recreated from these cells and currently endangered species, can be helped to stay healthy.

Secondly, above the ground, the Frozen Zoo acts as an elegant cantilevered pavilion that appears to hover above the Row Ponds, but is stitched sensitively into the landscape, being clad in timber and copper and respecting the natural materials found within the context.

Its relationship with the existing topology and footpaths diverts visitors into the Frozen Zoo, where they encounter an exhibition space, cafe and an opportunity to view, not only the stored frozen samples in the vault, but to engage with the local wildlife through viewing pods. It offers opportunities for scientists to carry out research on animal DNA, and an educational facility for school children and the general public, to extend the tradition of conservation work at Hardwick Hall.

Robyn Poulson


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