Bridge of Dreams: The Penguin Pool, London Zoo


  • John Allan




Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


The Penguin Pool at London Zoo 1934, designed by Berthold Lubetkin & Tecton is one of the iconic landmarks of modern architecture. This article tells the story of its creation, the structural secrets of its audacious spiral ramps and its varying fortunes in the evolution of the zoo as an institution for the display of captive animals. The Penguin Pool, visited and admired by thousands over the 75 years since its completion, also stands as a poignant emblem of the dreams and disappointments of modern architecture.

How to Cite

Allan, J. (2011). Bridge of Dreams: The Penguin Pool, London Zoo. Docomomo Journal, (45), 80–85.




Author Biography

John Allan

Director of Avanti Architects for nearly 30 years. First Chairman of docomomo–UK 1989–91. Biographer of Berthold Lubetkin, John Allan has led all Avanti’s Modern Movement conservation projects, including the restoration of Lubetkin’s Penguin Pool, Highpoint Flats and Finsbury Health Centre.


The Architect’s Journal, June 14, 1934, 856–859, London, The Architectural Press.

The Architectural Review, July 1934, 17–19, London, The Architectural Press.

The New Architecture and the London Zoo, (Film) by Lazlo Moholy–Nagy, for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Dept. of Architecture, Harvard University, 1936.

Hitchcock, H. R., Modern Architecture in England, catalogue for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1937, 25.

Concrete and Clay, (film), presenter Malcolm Coe, London Weekend Television, 1987.

Allan, John, ‘Tectonic Icon Restored’, RIBA Journal, London, February 1988, 30–32.

Allan, John, ‘Landmark of the Thirties Restored’, Concrete Quarterly 157, London, April/June 1988, 2–5.

Allan, John, Berthold Lubetkin—Architecture and the tradition of progress, RIBA Publications, London, 1992, see Chapter 6. (2nd Edition to be published by Black Dog, London 2012).

Allan, John, Berthold Lubetkin, London, Merrell Publishers, 2002.

Guillery, Peter, The Buildings of London Zoo, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, London, 1993, 82–84.

Berthold Lubetkin quoted in article ‘Historic Pioneers; Architects and Clients’, The Architect’s Journal, 11 March, 1970, 595.