Albert Memorial

Thomas Leverton Donaldson

Competition design for the Albert Memorial and the Hall of Science by T H Donaldson

Architect: Thomas Leverton Donaldson (1795-1885)
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections

This perspective view is taken from the north east, looking down towards South Kensington, and including not only T. L. Donaldson's design for the Prince Consort Memorial, but also his Hall of Science (the building on the far left).

Donaldson planned a mausoleum-type structure, consisting of a rectangular block topped by a stepped pyramid, flanked by fountains and obelisks. An obelisk was a popular ancient Egyptian tradition used to commemorate something or someone. The use of a stepped pyramid was also associated with funereal architecture.

Donaldson’s reaction to Scott’s design 

Donaldson's Classical design was ultimately not successful, losing out to Sir George Gilbert Scott's Gothic design. When the competition results were announced all the competitors were all invited to look at Scott's design. Afterwards Donaldson wrote very favourably about Scott’s design, but interestingly noted that he believed that the memorial in Kensington Gardens would be abandoned, and that the Hall of Science would act as the memorial instead (1).

The Hall of Science was a very important part of Donaldson's competition entry. Again he opted for a Classical design, using a large, grand Corinthian portico as the entrance to his hall. But the hall which was eventually built, the Royal Albert Hall, was a very different type of structure. Although also Classical in its origins it was based on a round building, an amphitheatre, rather than a rectangular basilica as here with Donaldson. 

His influence

Donaldson was ultimately less known for his buildings than for his influences as a teacher and writer. He sat on the Building Committee for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was a prominent founder member of the RIBA. In 1879 the son of Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, hailed him "father of the Institute and of the Profession."


(1) Donaldson is quoted in The Builder 15 August 1885, within an obituary piece on him by George Godwin.