Penguin Pool, London Zoo

Berthold Lubetkin & Tecton with Ove Arup as structural engineer        
Date Built
Completed 1934
Regent's Park London
Probably the most surprising aspect of London Zoo's Penguin Pool is that it contains no penguins.  The penguins have a new home but the pool remains as an example of animal enclosures of an earlier era and as a Grade I Listed structure designed by Berthold Lubetkin and realized by the engineering genius of Ove Arup.  Historic England describe it as, "A key symbol of British (and International) Modern Movement architecture and of notable structural and technical virtuosity for its time..."

The design involved two interlocking spiral ramps that raised many challenges.  The listing notes explain that, "The 2 interlocking but independant ramps are cantilevered over 14.021 metres without intermediate support, their depth ranging from 152 mm to only 76mm. At the head of one of the ramps is a glass fronted diving tank. The concrete of the ramps was designed to be permanently wetted by a revolving fountain."

At an exhibition of Arup's work at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2016 an architect's model of the pool was exhibited along with a photograph of the ramps during construction.

In 1966 the BBC broadcast a documantary called "Builder Extraordinary" which reflected on Arup's work.  The transcript includes the following comment regarding the penguin pool.  "Arup worked with Tecton on the elegant little penguin pool in Regent's Park Zoo, with its miraculously thin curved ramps intertwining and spiralling down into the water: a witty background to the pompous shuffle of its immaculately dressed inhabitants."

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