Royal Albert Hall
Kensington Gore, London SW7
John William Grover
Roland Mason Ordish
date 1867 - 29th March 1871
era Victorian |
category Building |
ICE reference number HEW 300
The main engineering feature of the famously elliptical Royal Albert Hall is its magnificent wrought iron roof, the detailed design and calculations for which were done by Grover and Ordish.
The hall was designed to fulfill two functions: a concert venue and and a conference centre for learned societies. Its construction was financed from surplus funds left over from the Crystal Palace, built for the 1851 Exhibition.
Built of brick, it accommodates 8,000 people and was opened by Queen Victoria. Its name commemorates prince Albert, who had died in 1861.
The roof is an elliptical trussed dome. It measures 219ft 4in by 185ft 4in and sits 120ft above street level. The roof load is carried by an elliptical horizontal-web plate girder sitting on the masonry wall. There are 30 trusses radiating from a central ring, also elliptical. This ring is 17ft 6in deep, which is also the maximum depth of the trusses.
The roof was trial-assembled at Fairbairn's Manchester works, then dismantled and shipped to London. The hall was completely filled with timber centring and scaffolding for the roof's installation. When the wedges were knocked out, the ironwork settled five sixteenths of an inch.
Originally, the dome was glazed with ridged glass, and a fabric canopy installed below to reduce glare. These were replaced in 1949 by the present arrangement of a fluted aluminium double-skin dome fixed to the under sides of the trusses. This was the second measure taken to improve the acoustics. In 1941 a sound-relflecting canopy was installed over the platform and in 1968-9, fibreglass acoustic diffusers were suspended from the roof.
John Fowler and John Hawkshaw also contributed to the engineering design as members of the Advisory Committee set up in 1866 before construction commenced. Fairbairn too contributed to the detail design of the roof.
Electric light was installed in the building in 1879.
Architect: Major-General H.Y.D. Scott
Contractor: Lucas & Co
Roof ironwork: William Fairbairn