Thursday 1 May 2008

Albertopolis Part Three

The Royal College of Organists is the subject of the third stage of our exploration of Albertopolis. This is a compact, bay fronted, four storey building adjacent to the Royal College of Art in the lee of the Albert Hall. It was originally built to house the National Training School for Music in 1875-76 to a design by H H Cole and from 1904 to 1991 it was the home of the Royal College of Organists. The visibility of the building benefits greatly from a decision to distinguish its design from that of the Albert Hall by refraining from the use of red-brick and terracotta. The plasterwork that animates the entire facade was applied in the form of decorative panels in preference to architectural mouldings. A generous provision of glazing is another distinctive feature and was dictated by the need to read musical scores.

The true glory of this building, which appears to be in near perfect external order, is the incised plaster (sgraffito) decoration designed by F W Moody in the form of multiple friezes of musician-cherubs and their instruments combined with vertical and horizontal panels of repeating patterns derived from musical forms. Assemblages of heraldic devices incorporating instruments celebrate Rhythm and Harmony and the scheme is held together by a subtle colour harmony of cream, maroon and pale blue. The projecting bay windows at second and third floor level strike an exotic note and have lead to comparisons with Istanbul and Venice. There is a detailed account of the origins of the building at British History Online and the Victoria & Albert Museum has an online tour of Albertopolis that can be accessed by clicking here.

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