13. Albert Hall Mansions 1883 (Richard Norman Shaw) London

This project raises the question of whom the entry sequence is for. There are multiple circulation cores, one for the residents and another for servants. This results in a complex circulation route and is heightened by the complex section with rooms of differing heights. The street entrance presents two doors, which subtle differences which indicate that the left-hand one is for residents and the right-hand one for servants. The necessity for having these in close proximity meant that the distinction had to played down in order to provide a sense of dignity to the whole composition. Once inside the sequence leads to a vestibule, a large hall, then grand stair. The servants entrance leads pretty much directly to the servants stair.

This is a difficult project to unpick because it incorporates a level of symbolic meanings communicated through its architecture. The entry sequence was never intended to be appropriated in the way that working class ones were (storing bicycles, hanging washing) but it is significant in establishing the right level of grandeur from the front door right up to the unit door. In this sense it is an integrated sequence and the practice of walking in and up is quite significant in expressing your status through the spaces you walk through. This makes the double door solution at the front quirky, to say the least; but it’s also interesting that servants route is not completely camouflaged. Their stair is open to the main hall. Nevertheless, the spaces are not about socialising as much as they are about representing.

Schema

  • street (city) ⇒ steps (ascend) ⇒ building door (boundary) ⇒ narrow hall ⇒ lobby ⇒ grand stair ⇒ landing ⇒ door (pair)

Unit identity

  • Weak; unit limits can be made out by studying the fenestration but the circulation sequence breaks the relationship between unit and street

Digimap Albert Hall Mansions

Bibliography

van der Putt, Pierijn, ‘Albert Hall Mansions’ in Delft Architectural Studies on Housing #02 The Luxury City Apartment. Nai010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 2009.

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