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Architecture: The Penguin Pool

An example of Berthold Lubetkin’s extraordinary modernist vision

The penguin pool which is placed in the London Zoo is a beautiful example of Berthold Lubetkin’s extraordinary modernist vision. Completed in 1934, it encapsulated an architectural transformation that was occurring in Britain at the time.

Lubetkin who was a Jewish-Georgian immigrant to London pioneered modernism in the 1930s. His work transmitted and postulated the idea that architecture was a tool of social progression. Inspired by the French architect Auguste Perret, while studying in Paris, Lubetkin encompassed and embodied ideas of re-working the neoclassical style with newer materials like concrete. His architectural style was massively popular in Britain before the war, however, afterward, his ideas were halted by staunch conservatism and a disparaging view for his avant-garde ideas. Revisionists may look at him as a pioneer within the field of psychogeography: the impact of a structure on those who encounter it.

The Penguin Pool, arguably his most renowned piece of work, features a walkway in the shape of a double helix. The walkways extend from hidden columns and appear to hover over the pool entirely unsupported. Furthermore, the enclosure included a long elliptical pool with a deep glass fronted diving tank. This design tried to mimic the penguin’s natural habitat and provided a theatrical arena where the animals could present themselves with alacrity to the fervent onlookers. The pool was a great success and plaudits marked about its formal simplicity and innovation, the double helix, in particular, garnered a lot of praise for its “dynamic visual appearance” and “technical expertise”. Sadly, to the dismay of Lubetkin’s legacy, the pool was closed in 2004 as the penguins found it to shallow to swim in. Although poetically emptied of its purpose and left in a defunct state, it still resembles the beautiful simplicity and avant-garde ideas of British modernism.

Short bio of the volunteer:

James Garn, from the United Kingdom. My interests include photography, music (especially: jazz, hip/hop, and reggae), and philosophy.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.