Dome: Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain

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© Courtesy of CHELSEA space
Dome: Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain

16 John Islip Street
London SW1P 4JU
United Kingdom
September 12th, 2012 - October 20th, 2012
Opening: September 11th, 2012 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM

+44 078 4178 3129
Wed-Fri 11-5 or by appointment
photographs, ephemera


As part of the 2012 London Design Festival and Icon Design Trail  CHELSEA space presents a unique opportunity to view material from the personal archive of Ralph Tubbs, architect of the iconic Dome of Discovery constructed for the Festival of Britain in 1951. The Exhibition will focus on previously unseen drawings by Tubbs, photographs, ephemera and personal mementos. The exhibition will also include general memorabilia from this landmark event in the cultural life of 20th Century Britain. 

The 1951 Festival of Britain was organised by the British govemment to promote the UK and help the British people recover a sense of optimism and pride after the trauma of the Second World War and the austerity that followed. The Festival (100 years after the Great Exhibition of 1851) highlighted Britain's contribution to science, Technology, Industrial Design, Arts and Architecture; the exhibition inside The Dome of Discovery was divided into sections about The Land, The Earth, Polar, Sea, Sky, Outer Space, The Physical World, and The Living World. The Festival was celebrated across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but its most memorable and innovative symbols were a vertical metal structure known as The Skylon, The Royal Festival Hall, and The Dome of Discovery - all on London's Southbank beside the River Thames. Sadly, the Festival and its architectural structures were seen as synonymous with Clement Att|ee’s post-war Labour govemment and the incoming Conservatives under Winston Churchill had the Skylon and the Dome of Discovery demolished and sold for scrap in 1952.

Ralph Tubbs OBE FRIBA (1912-1996) studied at the Architectural Association in London and then went on to work for the renowned architect Erno Goldfinger. Tubbs’ buildings include the YMCA Indian Student Hostel in Fitzrovia, Baden-Powell House Kensington, and the Charing Cross Hospital, but his designs for The Dome of Discovery will remain his defining achievement and an iconic symbol of the optimism of a nation. His dome stood 93 feet tall and, with a diameter of 365 feet, was the largest dome in the world at the time. Richard Rogers’ Millennium Dome (currently known as the O2 Arena), built in Greenwich as part of the British celebrations for the year 2000, takes the 1951 dome as a point of reference and has the same diameter in metres; it is, in part, a tribute to the architecture and vision of Ralph Tubbs.