This pavillion houses four elephants and four rhinoceroses in paired pens, designed ”'to display these massive animals in the most dramatic way”, according to the Zoological Society. The pens sit around a central public viewing hall, but the design strives to cater to the animals’ needs too: each pen has access to a sick-bay and moated external paddocks. The pens themselves are circular, reflecting the turning movements of the animals and avoiding sharp corners or spaces difficult to clean. The ribbed textured walls of the pens are designed to prevent animals rubbing against them and causing harm to themselves (or the walls, which are made of reinforced concrete). Its concave form has been designed to resemble animals drinking at a pool.
The Architectural Review wrote of the pavilion that “Elephants are such architectural animals that there is a temptation to look at a building housing them as a kind of analogy of themselves. This building, for example, could be described in terms of its massive curves, its wrinkled hide and its curious silhouette”.
Historic England said that “the Elephant and Rhino Pavilion is the most mature, carefully considered and richly detailed of a succession of British zoo buildings from the period 1931-65, and the finest permanent building by one of the leading architectural firms of the period”. Casson himself described it as “a saucy building”.