On Ramps and Penguins
^ London Zoo. Top left: Lubetkin and Tecton’s Penguin Pool, 1934 via shrapnelcontemporary. Bottom left: current state by Iqbal Aalam. Top right: design for the new pool via bbc. Bottom right: new pool via modern british architecture
On 27 May 2011 fake nature bet the architectural icon: a replica of a South American beach superseded Lubetkin and Tecton at the London Zoo. Their penguin pool from 1934 was considered a wonder for architects but a torture for environmentalists. The birds were said to suffer aching joints because of having to walk all day on the concrete ramps; and the pool was too shallow to dive, swim or burrow as part of their courting ritual. So the new penguin beach, four times longer and three times deeper, opened to offer a larger spectacle for an audience both above and under water, leaving the original pool empty of animals and full of architecture freaks. That day, the ramps eventually accomplished their original purpose. Meanwhile, the new pool with its fake stones and artificial wavy shores resulted – or not – more natural to the penguins than the Vkhutemas-inspired design. A larger audience demanded such visual interface and artefact to relax their environmentalist subconscious.
Following the idea behind these constructions of techno-nature(s) and machinic ecologies, the photographic work of Ignacio Evangelista provides a beautiful insight into human-made habitats. In his series Natural Selection, depicting modern zoological parks in Europe, we see a combination of the natural and its architectural abstraction for a human eye. From steep cliffs built out of asymmetric concrete volumes to papier-mâché mountainous sculptures, the built landscapes neither smell nor erode. Even the divisions between outdoors and indoor, summer and winter, tropical and equatorial geographies, they all become blurred: a heat lamp determines year seasons anew.
In Evangelista’s other series titled After Schengen, we are taken to the technocratic construction of another type of boundary lines: borders between formerly separated territories that the European Union and the Schengen Agreement tried to melt together. The photos capturing a whole set of useless and abandoned checkpoints today reflect the essence of the toll charge as one of the devices visualizing the actual border between two realities.
The checkpoints, that originally constructed differentiated landscapes, will remain in their location under the effect of natural laws of material decay.
And the penguins, they will merrily swim in a pool that is not natural enough to be natural enough.
^ Seven Lionesses in Hamburg. Natural Selection, by Ignacio Evangelista.
^ Four Suricates in Stuttgart. Natural Selection, by Ignacio Evangelista.
^ Fourty-Four Baboons in Madrid. Natural Selection, by Ignacio Evangelista.
^ Thirty-Seven Arrul in Madrid. Natural Selection, by Ignacio Evangelista.
^ Rattersdorf – Köszegcs A-H. After Schengen, by Ignacio Evangelista.
^ Slavonice-Fratres CZ-A. After Schengen, by Ignacio Evangelista.
^ Drasenhofen-Mikulov A-CZ. After Schengen, by Ignacio Evangelista.