“We’re all going to the Zoo…Dudley

Dudley Zoo. Yesterday our Warwick University ‘Thirties’ group visited Dudley Zoo (*Thirties meaning 1930s and not our ages!). The buildings spread around the site are known as Tectons and they represent a great example of thirties modernism, both in terms of art and social history.

Dudley, whipsnade, tecton, zoo
Dudley Zoo Entrance 1935-37, Tecton Group

(The) Tecton Group was a radical architectural collaboration co-founded by Berthold Lubetkin, Francis Skinner and Denys Lasdun in 1932. The name derived from the Greek meaning architecture. Their modernist themes were the portrayal of very simple lines, using concrete as the main material and characterised by open light.

Dudley, zoo, tecton, bears, West Midlands London whipsnade
Dudley Zoo, Bear enclosure, 1935-37

Zoo architecture lent itself to the Tecton philosophy and the group constructed significant buildings at London and Whipsnade as well as Dudley. In terms of its aesthetic appeal concrete always starts attractive but unfortunately does not stand the test of time and the English weather – not to mention the salt water of some of the enclosures!

Away from the zoos some of the earliest commissions for modernist architecture were commissioned to the group including Highpoint I in Highgate

Tecton, highpoint, Highgate, yectos, buildings architecture
Highpoint I, Highgate, London, 1935, Berthold Lubetkin and Ove Arup

The Finsbury Health Centre was another commission in 1938, now recognised as one of the great buildings of the twentieth century.

Health Finsbury, tecton, london
Finsbury Health Centre, London, 1935-38, Tecton Group

Dudley was a great day out, despite the dull weather. We also got round to discussing whether zoos are a good idea or not. What do you think? Judging by the numbers of school children there yesterday, many of them who will never see a wild animal in the wild I am in the camp supporting them (as long as the animals have space and interest) – a discussion fo another day maybe.

Dudley zoo, tecton group
Close encounter with Big Cat

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