The Way to Go Round

20160315 167

The Exhibition, which tells a continuous story, will make most sense if the Pavilions are visited in the order shown; but each can be visited separately if so desired.

Upstream Circuit – “The Land”

  1. The Land of Britain ◦ How the natural wealth of the British Isles came into being.
  2. The Natural Scene ◦ The rich and varied wild life that inhabits these islands.
  3. The Country ◦ A highly mechanised and most efficiently farmed countryside results from long experience, aided by science and engineering.
  4. Minerals of the Island ◦ How the British have drawn on their natural resources to produce raw materials for industry.
  5. Power and Production ◦ Highlights in the growth of present-day industry – the lifeline of Britain.
  6. Sea and Ships ◦ Shipbuilding, propelling machinery and the fisheries.
  7. Transport ◦ British pioneering, and contemporary achievement in design, for Communications and transport by Road, Rail, Air and Sea.

The Dome of Discovery

British initiative in exploration and discovery is as strong to-day as ever it was.

  1. The Land ◦ Exploration leads to development of overseas territories. Science and technology provide the tools and methods.
  2. The Earth ◦ Science is revealing the age and structure of the earth. Technology develops its underground resources.
  3. Polar ◦ A great tradition now applied particularly to scientific discovery and aided by mechanisation. Demonstrations in the Polar theatre.
  4. Sea ◦ The great heritage of Drake and Cook has passed to the marine scientists who are yearly adding to our knowledge of the sea.
  5. Sky ◦ Weather forecasting and research. Exploration into the ionosphere, which improves long-distance radio communication.
  6. Outer Space ◦ What we have learned from the old astronomy of Newton, and from the new astronomy which uses radio methods.
  7. The Physical World ◦ Explorations into the nature and behaviour of matter have made possible many of the material achievements of the present age.
  8. The Living World ◦ Discoveries of the secrets of life. Darwin’s great influence in the world of thought. Contemporary biological research.

Downstream Circuit – “The People”

  1. The People of Britain ◦ We are a people of mixed ancestry and now a blend of many different qualities.
  2. The Lion and the Unicorn ◦ Clues to British character and tradition. The Lion symbolises action the unicorn imagination.
  3. Homes & Gardens ◦ Many people on a small island create an urgent problem of space. Here are new solutions for six such problems in the home.
  4. The New Schools ◦ Equipment and classrooms from the new schools in Britain.
  5. Health ◦ British pioneering and modern achievement in public health, medicine, surgery and nursing.
  6. Sport ◦ Most sports originated in Britain and we have carried them around the world. Craftsmen at work.
  7. Seaside ◦ Our maritime character as expressed at home – the port, the seaside resort, the wild coastline between them.

Other Downstream Displays

  1. Television ◦ Its development: how television shows are put on.
  2. Telecinema ◦ First showings of new British documentary films in one-hourly programmes: large-screen television.
  3. 1851 Centenary Pavilion ◦ Recalls, in model form, the original Crystal Palace and its Royal opening in 1851.
  4. Shot Tower ◦ Aerial and reflector of the radio telescope; lighthouse optic and lantern; at base, a small display about the South Bank.
  5. Design Review ◦ A novel display, with information service, of 25,000 photographs illustrating the wide range of British manufactures.

The Story the Exhibition Tells

20160315 42What the visitor will see on the South Bank is an attempt at something new in exhibitions – a series of sequences of things to look at, arranged in a particular order so as to tell one continuous, interwoven story. The order is important. For the South Bank Exhibition is neither a museum of British culture nor a trade show of British wares, it tells the story of British contributions to world civilisation in the arts of peace. That story has a beginning, a middle, and an end – even if that end consists of nothing more final than fingerposts into the future.

The Pavilions of the Exhibition are placed in a certain deliberate sequence on the ground as chapters are placed in a certain deliberate sequence in a book. And, within each Pavilion, the displays are arranged in a certain order, as paragraphs are arranged in a certain order within each chapter of a book. This is a free country, and any visitors who, from habit or inclination, feel impelled to start with the last chapter of the whole narrative and then zig-zag their way backwards to the first chapter, will be as welcome as anyone else. But such visitors may find that some of the chapters will appear mystifying and inconsequent.

The story – as any visitor whose feet follow the intended circulation will observe -begins with the past, continues with the present, and ends with a preview of the continuing future. The belief that Britain will continue to have contributions to make in the future, is founded on two factors from which, in combination, British achievements, past and present, have arisen. Those two factors are the People of Britain and the Land of Britain. And those two factors continue.

This, then, is the theme of the interwoven serial story which is embodied in the South Bank Exhibition: the Land and the People. The land, endowed with scenery, climate and resources more various than any other country of comparable size, has nurtured and challenged and stimulated the people. The people, endowed with not one single characteristic that is peculiar to themselves, nevertheless, when taken together, could not be mistaken for any other nation in the world.

So, throughout the length of the Exhibition, there will be unfolded the tale of the continuous impact that this particular land has made on this particular people, and of the achievements that this people has continued to derive from its relationship with this land. The South Bank, then, contains a new sort of narrative about Britain: an Exhibition designed to tell a story mainly through the medium, not of words, but of tangible things.

The South Bank site is divided by the Hungerford Railway Bridge, which has been used in the layout of the Exhibition as the inner binding that separates the narrative into its two main volumes. The circuit of Pavilions that lie, in a rough semi-circle, upstream from Hungerford Bridge, tells the story of the Land of Britain and of the things that the British have derived from their land; the circuit of Pavilions that lie, in a rough semi-circle, downstream from Hungerford Bridge, relates the story of the People of Britain in the context of their more domestic life and leisure.

But even the whole two volumes of the Land and the People, taken together, must give an incomplete idea of the distinctive British contribution, unless a third volume is added: a memorandum on the pre-eminent achievements of British men and women in mapping and charting the globe, in exploring the heavens, and in investigating the structure and nature of the universe. These discoveries, together with some of the practical developments, are reviewed in the Dome of Discovery, which lies within the body of the Upstream, or Land Circuit.

Both the first chapter of the Land story and the first chapter of the People story open on the Fairway. It is from either of these starting points that visitors are invited to begin their tour of the Exhibition.

The architecture and the display, which embody the theme, were planned under the responsible direction of the Festival Office’s Exhibition Presentation Panel, which has the following membership:

Gerald Barry, Director General, Chairman
Cecil Cooke, Director, Exhibitions, Deputy Chairman
Misha Black, O.B.E. ◦ A. D. Hippisley Coxe, Council of Industrial Design
G. A. Campbell, Director, Finance and EstablishmentsJames Gardner, O.B.E.
Hugh Casson, Director, ArchitectureJames Holland
Ian Cox, Director, Science and TechnologyM. Hartland Thomas, Council of Industrial Design
Peter Kneebone, Secretary

The theme of the Exhibition was devised by Ian Cox

The Editor of the captions that accompany the displays was Lionel Birch.

The list of eminent men and women who have contributed to the Exhibition, either by advice or active planning of individual displays, is too long to be contained within this Guide. Their help has made the Exhibition a truly national undertaking. Acknowledgements are made by name in the Exhibition Catalogue which is published separately.

¶ A narrative Exhibition, such as this, develops its theme by means of things you can see and believe. Each of them is clearly captioned, so a written description of the displays exhibit by exhibit is unnecessary. What may help the visitor, however, is a summary of this theme as it is revealed, section by section, in the Exhibition. This is the purpose of the pages that follow.