DE
13.09.14

Elephant House: Dome demolished with bang!

The dome of Hellabrunn Zoo's elephant house has been demolished: at around 7:00 am on 12 September 2014, explosives demolition expert Eduard Reisch gave the signal for the blast - and within seconds the 18 m high, 300 tonne reinforced concrete structure collapsed into a pile of rubble.

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

The demolition, which took place long before opening hours, involved weeks of meticulous planning and the implementation of special safety measures to ensure the safety of the animals and everyone working on the site. "The blast was a real challenge, technically, logistically and organisationally. But everything worked extremely well," says zoo director Rasem Baban, praising the cooperation between the explosives team, site management, police and safety officers at the zoo.

The elephants and other animals in nearby enclosures spent the morning well protected in their stables with their trusted zookeepers standing by to offer reassurance, if necessary. During the weeks of preparatory construction work on the Elephant House leading up to the demolition, baby elephant Ludwig and his family became well accustomed to the noise and brief vibrations. Their keeper also prepared them to get used to the various unusual noises associated with the construction work and demolition. As a result, the elephants were quite calm during the few seconds of blast. "The bang of fireworks every New Year's Eve, which usually lasts for hours, causes significantly more stress for the animals. However, we will cancel the elephant show today as a precaution," says elephant keeper Andreas Fries.

Demolition expert Eduard Reisch also expressed his satisfaction with the demolition work: "For this project we used a loosening blasting technique. This involved spreading 250 kg of explosives across the dome and the supporting structure, via 2,500 drill holes, and igniting them to blow up the dome in seconds. From the outside, little could be seen of the explosion as all the roofs and openings were covered with heavy blasting mats and thick fleece layers. The gravel bed inside the building reduced the vibration and the wet weather of the last few days kept the dust generated to low level so that it did not present a problem, neither for animals nor the visitors."

The Elephant House is a listed building erected in 1914 in Byzantine style by the Munich architect Emanuel von Seidl. Its glass and reinforced concrete dome is one of the first self-supporting domes in the world. The building was closed in autumn 2010 due to the acute danger presented by the collapse of a small section of the ceiling. The Supervisory Board subsequently approved the demolition and reconstruction of the entire dome in original architectural style. The City of Munich has endorsed the renovation by offering € 15 million in financial support. It is not yet clear whether the renovated Elephant House will still maintain its listed building status.

The Elephant House will now be completely renovated and designed with the latest technological features for optimal elephant keeping. "From the outside, our Hellabrunn landmark will look just like it did 100 years ago, but with a brighter and more spacious interior - the animals will have more space, and visitors will be able to have a better view of them," says Christine Strobl, Chairman and deputy mayor, who also pointed out that the safety of visitors and animals, as well as energy- and cost-efficiency, were taken into account in the renovation planning.

Dome demolished with bang - Watch the film (Youtube-Channel)