Berthold Lubetkin, Tecton Group
Concrete by reinforcement
Concrete is a relatively brittle material that is strong in compression but less so in tension.
To increase its overall strength, steel rods, wires, mesh or cables may be embedded in concrete before it sets. This reinforcement, often known as rebar, resists tensile forces. By forming a strong bond, the two materials are able to resist a variety of applied forces, effectively acting as a single structural element .
In this case, the concrete can be made by mixing the components directly on site, or it may be transported from a production plant in concrete-mixer trucks.
This method has the disadvantage of leaving the concrete exposed to the elements while it is setting. Whereas, with other methods, the environmental conditions can be controlled during setting, providing greater control over the outcome, with cast-in-place concrete a series of tests and protocols are necessary to verify its final strength.
- textured walls
- wooden formwork finish
- stamped concrete
- exposed aggregate concrete, colored concrete, etc.
Trussed beams are the cheapest solution for the execution of large spans, in other words, when there are large distances between vertical supports. In reality, this type of beam is a kind of lattice, made up of a series of shorter braces (posts and struts).
Trussed beams are usually made of steel or wood, since some of the elements of the structure will be subject to compression and others to traction. As such, it is unusual for structures of this type to be built only with concrete. Using a combination of concrete for compression and steel to absorb traction results in better structural performance.
State of Conservation
The penguin pool at the London Zoo was designed in 1934 by Berthold Lubetkin, an architect of Russian origin who emigrated to England, along with Lindsay Drake from the Tecton Group, a group of architects committed to modernity of which he was co-founder. This small building is an indisputable icon of modern architecture in England. It not only forged new formal paths, it also revealed the expressive potentials of a new material: reinforced concrete. A decisive factor in the development of the design was that the architects relied on a collaboration with the prestigious engineer Ove Arup. The result is a structural feat: two overlapping helical white concrete ramps, 14 meters long each, that hover above the pool, without any apparent support, ending in the water.
Lubetkin received the commission after having designed the Gorilla House for the same zoo a few years earlier. This new project incorporated participation from psychologists specialized in animal behavior. The aim was to offer the penguins a space that reinterpreted the forms of their natural habitat, thus allowing them to carry out the same type of movements that they would in nature. The results include the level of the oval-shaped pool, sunken with respect to the surrounding space, and the concrete wall that surrounds it, with strategically placed openings to allow observation of the animals and minimize possible interference from visitors. Following these successful experiments with architecture for animals, the Tecton Group was commissioned to build an entire zoo in Dudley, England.
This ability to transfer, in an apparently simple way, the functional needs of a program that lacked any existing precedents onto a space built by exploring the possibilities of a new construction technology, concrete, makes this small penguin pool exceptional and a reference point in modern architecture.
Thought restored in 1987, the penguin pool has lost its use since 2004.
Zoological Gardens 15/3 Regent's Park
London NW1 4RY London
Fundación DOCOMOMO Ibérico