A PIONEERING project which is bringing iconic Dudley buildings back to life is into its final phase.
New images released by Dudley Zoo show how the multi-million pound restoration of the main entrance and shop will look when they open at Easter.
Bosses at the Castle Hill zoo say work is on schedule to complete the upgrade of the 1930s structures, which are part of the world’s biggest collection of Tecton architecture.
Dudley Zoological Gardens chief executive, Peter Suddock, said: “It’s been five years in the making, but it’s a unique project and will give the buildings a much-deserved renaissance and secure them for future generations.
“We are very much a part of the region’s heritage: most families in the West Midlands have passed through our iconic entrance – more than 30 million visitors have been through those turnstiles in the past 77 years.
“From Easter when visitors arrive they see the original view of the castle and zoo as it was intended to be seen.”
The zoo has 12 Tecton buildings which were constructed between 1935 and 1937 by Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin using new techniques of reinforced concrete and restoration work has involved a mix of methods from the 1930s and the 21st century.
Mr Suddock said: “All concrete repair work has been completed employing the exact formula used when they were built and we’ve also identified original paint colours.
“It’s been a fascinating journey taking a unique set of buildings apart; so much previously-unseen architecture has been revealed and it’s also offered an insight into past construction methods.
“The structural engineering for the time was very intelligent. For example, the entrance has 39 pins supporting the roof’s five iconic concrete waves that form an interlocking serpentine. We now understand how that was constructed whereas prior knowledge was very limited.
“It’s not all retrospective, we’ve re-insulated the shop’s roof, added underfloor heating and new windows and doors.”
After the completion of the of the first two buildings workers will turn their attention to Bear Ravine and Kiosk 1 at the zoo for the next stage of the project.
The current phase of restoration has cost £417,000 including £200,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of a £1.15m grant which, along with funding from the 20th Century Society, English Heritage and the European Regional Development Fund, has already helped pay for the restoration of the zoo’s 1958 chairlift.
The project itself is also a groundbreaking initiative between the zoo and Dudley College to develop apprenticeships for building students.
Mr Suddock said: “This is the first time such a dedicated course has been launched and we believe it will provide valuable skills within the building restoration industry.”