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City Curriculum: C21 Exposition

Part 2 Project 2002
Matt Wong
Andrew Diggle
London South Bank University, UK
Well known for the overly famous Harrods, South Kensington also contains a number of museums (the V and A, Science, and Natural History Museums), and last but far from least the Albert Hall, sitting next to Imperial College. It is apparent that the area has diverse educational and commercial parts. Arguably this originated with Prince Albert's Great Exhibition of 1951, which presented the rhetoric of pacifist internationalism and commercial integration in the envelope of the Crystal Palace. Although this building was reconstructed in Sydenham, the essence of the exhibition continued to dominate South Kensington. The surplus funded Imperial College itself, and the exhibition's intentions were reflected in the academic ambitions of that institution. Yet somewhere along the timeline, the importance of economy and business grew to dominate the area instead. It is said that globalisation strengthens the world's economy, leading to a more balanced world, and a Utopia of sorts. But when the world slowly becomes one unit, the differences between nations reduces. If the world is seen as one unit, what is out there for us to compare?

The project, located along Knightsbridge, addresses the identity shift of South Kensington from exhibition to education to economy. The three are to be combined together on one site to recapture the ideological essence of the Great Exhibition, recovering the social and cultural importance of old South Kensington. The next icon of South Kensington must have a fair balance of each of the three present qualities. Using the time displacement of 151 (years) as a physical dimension, the site is analysed mathematically.

The building is dedicated to demonstrating national identity, with a convention centre for strategising world peace. Consisting of permanent and temporary exhibition spaces combined with a multi purpose auditorium, the whole is subsidised by short rental offices and apartments in a compact tower. The site shall be used as a representation of rearranged, reformed, and reinforced elements. An exposed frame construction is introduced as a metaphor of reinforcement. Transparent temporary units are slotted into this frame, justifying the exhibitive, temporal, and transitional qualities of the site.

Matt Wong
Andrew Diggle

Matt has produced a very thoughtful project which combines both a rigorous method, a social agenda of real merit, and a vital form. The manner in which he has come to terms with the cultural importance of South Kensington and its place in mid Victorian nationhood is impressive. The choice of site analysis (a meticulous geometrical rotation derived from the 151m. dimension) might, under other circumstances, have produced a sterile and calculating end product, but like any sure footed designer of quality, Matt knows exactly how far to rely on method and when to test his instincts...

The building sits on a tectonic landscape out of which three specific elements grow. The tower pays for everything, and is a calm, elegant presence moderating the shard like exhibition hall, and the humped back of the auditorium. The counterpoint of the forms is very assured, as is the functionality of each. Between each element there is worthwhile open space, and there is convincing materiality and constructional integrity throughout the presentation.

If the intention of the project is to redefine the internationalist themes of Albert's Great Exhibition within another piece of memorable South Kensington architecture, then we think Matt has succeeded...

• Page Hits: 929         • Entry Date: 17 September 2002         • Last Update: 17 September 2002