In the early 20th Century, renowned Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin was commissioned by London Zoo to design a gorilla house and penguin pool. Dan Cruickshank, a leading architectural and historical buildings expert, shows us these important structures which helped to launch modernistic architecture in Great Britain. The penguin pool is particularly important as it was one of the first attempts to creatively explore the possibilities of a new building material available in 1934 – reinforced concrete. Having studied the habits of penguins, Lubetkin created a structure to provide an interesting environment for the penguins, a multiplicity of viewing angles for the spectators and a modernistic building. From 'British Movietone'.
Students could consider the penguin pool and gorilla house in terms of what they were supposed to achieve. Lubetkin was attempting to create backdrops that would best show off animal behaviours. The class could debate how this idea fits with present-day ideas of what a zoo is for and how animals should be considered. The pool in particular can be used as part of a study of building materials. The ramps featured would not have been possible without use of reinforced concrete. Students could choose this or other materials and investigate structures that make best use of their physical properties.