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Friday, July 02, 2004
Is London Zoo really going to remove the penguins from Lubetkin and Arup's Penguin Pool? The Twentieth Century Society thinks they are. Perhaps the zoo thinks the penguins would be happier in a pool like this one? Modern architecture and zoos is one of those things - a seemingly good idea at the time, but one where architecture's supposedly fundamental qualities - solidity, timelessness, etc. - are quickly subsumed by the faster-moving disciplines of zoology and animal welfare.

Take the elephant house, also at London Zoo and designed by Sir Hugh Casson in the 60s. The raw, jack-hammered concrete fins of the exterior were oft-likened to the rough grey hide of the elephants themselves. But human beings, let alone elephants, find brutalism hard to love. In the unlikely event of a new elephant house being commissioned, one could be fairly certain that a rough concrete enclosure, however elegant, won't be on the drawing board. (Keeping elephants in any form of captivity is now officially frowned upon. Indeed, London Zoo's elephants now live in the far leafier environs of Whipsnade, after the tragic death of a keeper).

So perhaps the penguins have a point. Lubetkin was careful to study penguin behaviour, but the pool is remarkable and enduring not for its advanced concerns about animal welfare (at least by the standards of the 1930s). Instead, it was the complexity of the design, the interlocking concrete ramps and the way in which the pool expressed modernism's pure geometry better than any building designed for humans. It's still inspirational.

More zoo architecture. Lubetkin and Tecton at Dudley Zoo / other things - Discovering the Fleet (part of Architecture Week, which I missed completely. Via hyperreal and supercool). The Fleet River ran (runs) into the north bank of the Thames, underneath what is now Farringdon Road. Little more than an open sewer for much of the past 300 years, it was once envisioned as the city's grand canal by Christopher Wren. It didn't look too bad in the past / some more listed buildings.

The Tyranny of the Tagline: 'Why do ad agencies and their clients love taglines so much?', asks Michael Bierut. The Holy Grail of taglines doesn't help: Just Do It. But can you make the tagline into the identity? The YWCA clearly thinks so. The comments flag up the Tareyton cigarette slogan, 'I'd rather fight than switch'. Did Public Enemy sample this in Fight the Power? Does anyone know? The nine samples listed here don't mention it.

Elsewhere. Driving and shooting will always be popular in video games, notes the BBC. Meanwhile, reviews of the game that spurred the article, Driver 3 (or 'Driv3r', if you must), are causing controversy - is this the gaming world's equivalent of payola?

Also noted, Random Features,a photolog / gamine-spotting / retro gadgets covered in this Wired article / Land Living, design and architecture news / an architectural pilgrimage in sketches. A grand tradition, continued.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself, since I own three of the top ten covers of the year, an utterly unscientific analysis at USA Today (as one might expect). Related, the art of Matteo Pericoli / brilliant corners, a weblog (not to be confused with 80s indie darlings, the Brilliant Corners.