This film is part of Free

New Architecture at the London Zoo

Penguins get the VIP treatment in this artistic look at the Zoo's visionary 1930s revamp.

Documentary 1937 16 mins Silent


London's position at the cutting edge of mid-1930s design is documented to striking effect in this silent documentary, co-commissioned by the London Zoological Society. The occasion was the completion of various new buildings at London Zoo and its Bedfordshire counterpart Whipsnade, designed by Berthold Lubetkin and his architectural practice Tecton. This was the second of two films made in Britain by Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy, a former teacher at the Bauhaus design school.

Clean, functional design was the key concern of the Modernist movement - even with buildings intended for animals. And though the stark white enclosures often proved to be impractical homes for their inhabitants, including the famous (now Grade I-listed) Penguin Pool, this beautifully photographed film is a testament to the idealism of its day. Moholy-Nagy's 1936 film Lobsters is also available to view on BFI Player.