Imperial College

Imperial College

Elevation and section of the principal tower 1888

Elevation and section of the principal tower, 1888
Artist: Thomas Edward Collcutt
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections

The site occupied today by Imperial College consists of a large and complicated collection of buildings. It has a long, chequered history. In the early days of Albertopolis this area had been occupied by the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens. After the gardens closed in 1882, Imperial Institute Road and Prince Consort Road were laid out across the site.

Imperial Institute

The first of the new buildings on the land was the Imperial Institute, founded after the Imperial Exhibition of 1886 and in celebration of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Its purpose was to encourage scientific study relevant to all countries of the British Empire, through research, exhibitions, and conferences.

A Neo-Renaissance style building was designed by T.E. Collcutt to sit towards the southern end of the site. Construction work took six years and the institute was officially opened by the queen in 1893.

The institute did not prove to be a success and already in 1899 the University of London took over half of the building as administration offices. By 1936 the university moved out to Bloomsbury and for the next 20 years the institute was subject to various changes of administration.

Expansion of Imperial College

In 1953 the government announced a scheme for the expansion of Imperial College, which it became apparent would include the demolition of Collcutt's building. Imperial College had been created in 1907 with the merger of several technical colleges and institutions which had been set up on and around the site in South Kensington. In 2007 the college celebrated its centenary.

The story of the foundation and expansion of Imperial College, the fate of Imperial Institute and the protest against its demolition can be discovered here in Albertopolis and the archives of Imperial College.

Past and present important structures on the site

  • City and Guilds College, 1884, by Alfred Waterhouse, demolished 1962.
  • 170 Queen's Gate, 1889, by Richard Norman Shaw
  • Royal College of Science, by Aston Webb, 1900-06, partially demolished.
  • Royal School of Mines, by Aston Webb, 1910-13.
  • Royal School of Needlework, 1898-c.1902, by F.B. Wade, located on north corner of Imperial Institute Road and Exhibition Road. Demolished 1962 as part of Imperial College's expansion.
  • Four buildings by Foster + Partners, including the Imperial College Business School.
  • Bessemer Building, strikingly refurbished in 2006 in vibrant pink by architect Sheppard Robson