I had always imagined London Zoo as a rather dilapidated, forlorn place. Its image in my head was that of a sodden Withnail barking Hamlet at an oblivious cage full of leopards. So I thought this would be a fun place to spend my birthday. Which it was, but not quite in the sense I had imagined.
Naturally, the architecture of the place was part of the reason, as well as the eulogy to it as 'well worth a boggle' in Nairn's London. Also the preposterousness of placing all manner of tropical animals not only in London, but in the traffic blackened, smackhead ridden, portugese goth frequented pit that is Camden. Imagine my surprise then to find what one would suspect to be a rather furtive affair, was in fact enormously upfront with its conservationalist credentials, with swish new enclosures to mask the obvious fact that giraffes are not supposed to live in Camden. Many of the architectural flights of fancy were still impressive- the constructivist aviary (unusually shy birds, though, particularly compared with the surrounding pigeons) and the concrete camel ziggurats. A tent filled with butterflies was nicely surreal. But the fate of the penguin pool was somewhat unexpected.
Presumably for reasons of alliteration it is now a Porcupine Pool, the water replaced by woodchip with a solitary porcupine slumped miserably under Tecton's swooping boards. Apparently the Penguins were not breeding. The Penguin Pool has always been a wonderful modernist archetype, the aquatic gleaming futurism spawning a hundred lidos- so to see it like this was peculiar to say the least. And what this implies of the libidinal economy of modernism is more than a little worrying...