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  Essential Architecture-  London

Royal Albert Hall

architect

Captain Francis Fowke and Colonel H.Y. Darracott Scott of the Royal Engineers.

location

in London's royal borough of Westminster directly to the north in Kensington Gardens

date

1871

style

Renaissance Revival

construction

oval in shape, measuring 83 m (272 feet) by 72 m (238 feet) mainly of Fareham Red brick, with terra cotta block decoration made by Gibbs and Canning Ltd. of Tamworth

type

Exhibition hall
 
 
 
  The opening ceremony on 29 March 1871.
 
  The Triumph of Arts and Sciences
 
  Grand Opening 1871
The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences is an arts venue dedicated to Queen Victoria's husband and consort, Prince Albert. It is situated in London's royal borough of Westminster, within the area also known as Albertopolis. It forms the practical part of a national memorial to the Prince Consort - the decorative part is the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by the heavy traffic along Kensington Gore. The hall also accommodates the largest pipe organ in the UK, and is the home of The Proms.

Introduction

Since its opening by Queen Victoria on March 29, 1871 the Royal Albert Hall has played host to a multitude of different events and legendary figures and has been affectionately titled 'The Nation's Village Hall'. As well as hosting the Proms every summer since they were bombed out of the Queen's Hall in 1941, the Hall has been used for classical and rock concerts, conferences, ballroom dancing, poetry recitals, education, ballet, opera and even a circus (Cirque du Soleil). It has hosted many sporting events, including boxing, wrestling (including the first Sumo wrestling tournament ever to be held outside Japan) and tennis. It also hosts the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, held the day before Remembrance Sunday.

The hall, a Grade I listed building, is oval in shape, measuring 83 m (272 feet) by 72 m (238 feet) around the outside, and has a capacity of 8,000 people and has accommodated as many as 9,000 (although modern safety restrictions mean that the maximum permitted capacity is now 7,000). The great glass and iron dome roofing the hall is 41 m (135 feet) high. Around the outside of the hall is a great terra cotta frieze, depicting "The Triumph of Arts and Sciences", in reference to the hall's dedication. One-foot high letters above the frieze have the Biblical quotations: "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is - in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. ... The wise and their works are in the hand of God. ... Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace."

History

In 1851 the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park, London, for which the so-called Crystal Palace was built. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, to propose that a permanent series of facilities be built in the area for the enlightenment of the public. Progress on the scheme was slow and in 1861 Prince Albert died, without having seen his ideas come to fruition. However, a memorial was proposed for Hyde Park, with a Great Hall opposite. The proposal was approved and the site was purchased with some of the profits from the Exhibition. Once the remaining funds had been raised, in April 1867 Queen Victoria signed the Royal Charter under which the Hall was to operate and on 20 May, laid the foundation stone.

The Hall was designed by Captain Francis Fowke and Colonel H.Y. Darracott Scott of the Royal Engineers. They were heavily influenced by ancient amphitheatres, but had also been exposed to the ideas of Gottfried Semper while he was working at the South Kensington Museum. The recently-opened Cirque d'Hiver in Paris was seen in the contemporary press as the design to outdo. The Hall was constructed mainly of Fareham Red brick, with terra cotta block decoration made by Gibbs and Canning Ltd. of Tamworth. The dome (designed by Rowland Mason Ordish) on top was made of steel and glazed. There was a trial assembly made of the steel framework of the dome in Manchester, then it was taken apart again and transported down to London via horse and cart. When the time came for the supporting structure to be removed from the dome after re-assembly in situ, only volunteers remained on site in case the structure dropped. It did drop - but only by five-eighths of an inch! The Hall was scheduled to be completed by Christmas Day 1870 and the Queen visited a few days beforehand to inspect. She was reported as saying "It looks like the British Constitution".

The official opening ceremony of the Royal Albert Hall was on March 29, 1871. After a welcoming speech by Edward, the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria was too overcome to speak, so the Prince had to announce that "The Queen declares this Hall is now open". A concert followed, when the Hall's acoustic problems became immediately apparent. These were not properly tackled until 1969 when a series of large fibreglass acoustic diffusing discs (commonly referred to as "mushrooms" or "flying saucers") were installed in the roof to cut down the notorious echo. It used to be said that the hall was the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice.

Initially lit by gas (when thousands of gas jets were lit by a special system within 10 seconds), full electric lighting was installed in 1897. During an earlier trial when a partial installation was made, one disgruntled patron wrote to The Times newspaper declaring it to be " a very ghastly and unpleasant innovation".

The Hall has more recently undergone a rolling programme (1996 - 2004) of renovation and development to enable it to meet the demands of the next century of events and performances. The works included a major rebuilding of the pipe organ, orginally built by "Father" Henry Willis by Manders of London and the construction of a new south porch in the same style as the preexisting porches. The rebuilding of the organ now again makes it the largest pipe organ in the British Isles.

Now the hall is used as a live music venue. Graduation ceremonies for students of London's prestigious Imperial College are also held in the hall.

Famous concerts

Fairuz performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1962.
26 November 1968: Cream farewell show.
24 September 1969: Concerto for Group and Orchestra (restaged 25/26 September 1999)
1969–1988 - Miss World beauty pageants
Jimi Hendrix performed on February 24, 1969 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience featuring Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell
Led Zeppelin performed on January 9, 1970, footage of which was filmed for a planned documentary. Though no documentary was ever made due to the poor quality of the film, the material was re-mastered over thirty years later and virtually the entire show was released on the Led Zeppelin DVD
ABBA ended their 1977 European tour at the Hall with two sold-out concerts. Tickets for the concerts were available only by mail application and it was later revealed that the box-office received, astonishingly, 3,5 million requests for tickets. Reportedly, the concerts were partially filmed for ABBA: The Movie, but the footage was eventually not included in the final version of the film and to this day remains unreleased. ABBA cover group, Björn Again, has performed at the Hall in 1998, and the performance was released on VHS and CD.
Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert featuring the "Dream Cast" in 1995.
Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hall Celebration - A tribute to Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber for his 50th birthday in 1998.
Oasis recorded here their MTV Unplugged in August of 1996 without their singer Liam Gallagher in one of the most acclaimed unplugged concerts of MTV
The Corrs at 1998's St. Patrick's Day
Ladysmith Black Mambazo on 22 April, 1999, recorded live
The Who recorded a DVD in 2000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust in a concert featuring their greatest hits
The string quartet Bond debuted their first album "Born" on September 20, 2001
29 November 2002: The Concert For George (Harrison).
April 1, 2005: Siti Nurhaliza held a successful solo concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The "Asia's Celine Dion" was the first Asian pop singer to have a solo performance there.
May 2, 3, 5, 6, 2005: Cream reunion concert.
The BBC Promenade Concerts held every year, the last night of which is broadcast in several countries.
The Cure Played a 3 hour concert, April 1st 2006.
A famous and widely bootlegged concert by Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on May 17, 1966 was mistakenly labeled the "Royal Albert Hall Concert." In 1998 Columbia Records released an official recording, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, that maintains the erroneous title, but does include details of the actual concert location. Dylan actually did close his European tour on May 26th and 27th of that year; these were his last concerts before Dylan got into a motorcycle accident and became a recluse for a brief period of time.

Another concert that was mislabeled as being at the Royal Albert Hall was by Creedence Clearwater Revival. An album by CCR titled The Royal Albert Hall Concert was released in 1980. When it was discovered that the show on the album actually took place at the Oakland Coliseum, Fantasy Records retitled the album The Concert.

Depictions in popular culture
It was prominently featured in the climax of Alfred Hitchcock's 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much (and the 1956 remake, also directed by Hitchcock).
A key scene in The Ipcress File takes place on the outside stairs.
It is referenced in the Beatles' song "A Day in the Life": Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
The Hall was featured in a shot in The X-Files: Fight the Future, during a scene set in London.
One version of the lewd song Hitler Has Only Got One Ball places the dictator's missing testicle "in the Albert Hall".
Paul Jennings' illustrated children's book The Great Jelly of London published in 1967 is a fictional account of the hall being used as the world's largest jelly mould.

links

www.essential-architecture.com