Model for the proposed interior of the Hall of Arts and Science, 1864
Painted wood, cardboard and glass
Copyright: V&A Images. Museum number: A.10-1973
Model for alternative treatment of exterior of the Hall of Arts and Science, 1868
Copyright: V&A Images. Museum number: A.11-1973
As architect of the Department of Science and Art, Francis Fowke took on the project which later became known as the Royal Albert Hall. He designed an elliptical amphitheatre, consisting of an arena, two tiers of boxes, and above an art gallery or promenade.
Fowke's model, on the left, was shown by Sir Henry Cole and Richard Redgrave to Queen Victoria at Osborne in 1865, to enlist her support and that of her son the Prince of Wales. They were successful; however, Fowke died suddenly in December that year.
After Fowke's death
The German architect Gottfried Semper was suggested as a replacement, following his recent success in Dresden with the new opera house, and his previous consultation with the Prince Consort about a hall design. The commissioners however had concerns about employing a foreigner, and also feared what a well-known architect would cost. The plans remained in the department's drawing office and fell to the Director of New Buildings, H.Y.D. Scott, to complete.
Fowke's interior design and plan could only be slightly modified by Scott as the sale of boxes and seats had already begun. He did however increase the width of the oval plan, partly it's believed to improve acoustics and to introduce an upper balcony.
For the exterior Scott was given greater freedom. He noticed how Fowke's interior and exterior elevation did not match, something which he discussed during a paper he gave at the RIBA on 22 January 1872.
Scott simplified Fowke's design, with less overt classical detailing. One major change he made was the addition of the mosaic frieze, which continues all the way round the building below the main cornice.
Numerous artists contributed to the frieze design, including W.F. Yeames. In keeping with the ethos of Albertopolis the ladies of the South Kensington Museum's mosaic class made the 800 slabs which make up the frieze.