By Guest Blogger Mandi
Images and the journey itself courtesy of amitours.co.uk
Recently I took a ride in a cab through the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I was tasked with producing photos of the taxi in action; an out and about photo shoot. South Kensington in particular is an area I felt I was already very familiar with having gotten to know it well during my time at the Royal College of Art, where I’d studied two years previous. I was quite wrong! It’s quite interesting how used to your surrounding environment you get without ever actually paying it any particular attention. At the time I would walk around with my mind fixed on a destination, not necessarily absorbing myself with what was around me in the present.
I already understood the anatomy of the area. The Royal college of Art, the Royal College of Music, the Imperial College, the V&A, the Natural History Museum (above), the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall. To me these were just all convenient nearby attractions. I had never thought of the reasoning for their close proximity until researching the area for the photo shoot. So here we are, the reason.
In the summer of 1851 the Great Exhibition brought a celebration of creativity – the best of human creativity – to this small borough of London. Pulling together two realms that previously could not have been further apart: Science and Art.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
The reconciliation between the two began at The Great Exhibition in nearby Hyde Park, then shortly after Prince Albert pushed for this area to be bought by the Royal Commission with the profits made. This area was then built up to encourage a community where science and art could coexist, if not crossover. The nearby museums could aid the practitioners of science and art alike.
Of course this was all built up overtime and a lot of the original institutions have long since vanished. Interestingly the central axis of the Imperial College, the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert memorial are all aligned, appearing set to stay. This slight detail that goes unnoticed to the everyday visitor as it is only viewable from the Queen’s Balcony (rarely open to the public). The axis ties together the marriage of art and science: an arts institution, a science institution to the facilitator: Price Albert.
|The Albert Memorial
“Better it is to Get Wisdom than Gold”
The memorial was commissioned ten years after The Great Exhibition because of Prince Albert’s sudden death in 1861. The area was affectionately named Albertropolis, although this is more or less forgotten these days as the area has become known as South Kensington. It’s a shame as we have a lot to owe him. Prince Albert was an advocate of self learning and encouraged the opening of museums and libraries to the public – before which these were places of the academic, the researcher. This was a truly ground breaking endeavour; one which we now take for granted.
Without Prince Albert I may have not received the education I did in one of the world’s most densely populated and successful cultural quarters.
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