Geoscience Reference
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take to the pond immediately and to breed successfully (see Allan 1992). Later
evidence was, however, contradictory. When a resident of one of Tecton's renowned
Highpoint flats wrote in praise of the pool in 1950, the Superintendent,
G.S.Cansdale, replied that he was less interested in aesthetics than in
accommodation for the birds, and that '[i]n this respect it has failed dismally'
because it was a heat-trap in summer: 'in fact the only point in its favour is that it
allows a good view of the birds' (Cansdale 1950; on Cansdale see Philo 1995:661-
That sense of theatricality implied by human intervention in the natural world
through zoos was also heavily to the fore here. This was a building in which
'penguinness' was produced. In the water the penguins could demonstrate their
natural grace and speed. The ramps and walkways, however, provided the comical
contrast. As the AJ (1934:857) put it:
Penguins have an attractive and faintly ridiculous quality: their shape and
black and white colouring produce an almost human effect, enhancing the
grotesque awkwardness of their movements on land…. The two cantilevered
ramps—have a theatrical quality and provide a suitable stage for the waddling
gait of the penguins, who are shown to be able to hop as well as waddle by the
stepped ramps.—The pond, in fact, explains the characteristics of the
penguins and 'produces' them effectively to the public.
Again, the penguins 'produced' by the pool were continually anthropomorphised,
one cartoon in Punch showing a row of snooty penguins impatient at being held up
at a 'pedestrian crossing' between the two ramps. The pool was also said to offer 'a
suitable setting for any latent publicity talent' on the birds' part ( AJ 1934: 857).
Nonetheless, in transmitting the penguins' character to the watching public, the
pool also transmitted lessons for human society. The architecture critic C.H. Reilly
(1935: unpaginated) argued that the pool was:
a complete and unique conception. It has unity and elegance and lightness all
in a very high degree. It uses our beloved concrete in a way which opens up
new vistas for us all. Who would have thought a few years back that those
broad, curved sloping ways, graceful and light as the spring of a watch and
associated in the mind at once with the wing of a bird, could be made in it? One
can see [the] new world of light and air and glass and silver, which is to come
about when our noses are more sensitive, already approaching. I hope I live
long enough to have a small town house, I suppose with one ramp for my
wife and another for myself as circumscribed, and complete for my needs and
with no possible addition or alteration—indeed the perfect unity. No doubt I
shall have to satisfy my habits before I am worthy to live in such a thing of
beauty, but that would be very good for me as for most of us.
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