Albertopolis is a city within a city. It has everything that's best and most iconic about London squeezed into a tiny cluster of buildings just South of Hyde Park.
And what buildings! Within a single city block you can find three of the world's leading universities, three of the nation's most popular museums and what is arguably the single most famous performance venue in the country.
After a three year renovation project completed in time for the Olympics, Albertopolis is now the largest pedestrianised cultural area in Europe. Tourists walking up the modernised Exhibition Road rub shoulders with scientists on their way to laboratories at Imperial College London, students late for lectures at the Royal College of Music, and families preparing for a day out at the Natural History Musem.
This is London's cultural heartland - where art meets science, music meets technology, and design meets engineering. Where cutting-edge research is done in Victorian-era buildings, and where millions of tourists come to be enlightened and entertained every year.
At the Northernmost tip of the area is the Albert Memorial - an extravagant celebration of the life of Albert of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria. It was Prince Albert's vision to create this thriving multidisciplinary community, and it is as an affectionate tribute to his passion and commitment that it now bears his name.
For all its rich and vibrant history, Albertopolis is as alive and exciting today as it has ever been. Exhibitions at the Science Museum and the V&A continue to inspire and amaze the public, and the Royal Albert Hall hosts ever more challenging and dynamic events.
Albertopolis begins with the Great Exhibition of 1851. A spectacular event held in Thomas Paxton’s glorious ‘Crystal Palace’ in Hyde Park, the huge success of the exhibition made the cultural and scientific wealth of Albertopolis possible. A showcase of industry and design, “The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations” was the world’s first international exhibition. 6800 British manufacturers displayed their ingenuity and skill alongside exhibitors from 30 other countries. In the six months that it ran from May to October, six million people visited, a third of Britain’s population at the time. The exhibition was organised by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and the £186,000 profit was used to purchase the land upon which now stands institutions like the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, and Imperial College London. It was the ‘Big Bang’ of South Kensington.
The architecture of Albertopolis remained magnificently Victorian for some hundred years. But in the 1950s and 60s the stampeding feet of modernism would bring vast buildings crumbling to the ground. The City and Guilds College building, which once stood on Exhibition Road, was torn down. So too was the Imperial Institute, with only its central tower remaining as a memory of the proud building which once dominated Albertopolis. That central tower is now known as the Queen’s Tower. The area’s evolution has continued in the 21st century, with the redevelopment of Exhibition Road and new architectural feats like the Darwin Centre.