Trees and Flowers

However exciting large exhibitions may be, they are exhausting. Sooner or later the visitor needs somewhere to relax. On the South Bank the main restaurants and cafes each have their own small garden but, for reasons of space, the Exhibition’s chief place of relaxation and refreshment is the Festival Gardens in Battersea Park. A shuttle service of river boats makes it easy to get there.

These Gardens are the countryside, as it were, for the miniature city on the South Bank, where the planting of flowers and trees has been governed by the same needs that obtain in a town. So, every tree and plant has been placed to give refreshment to the eye, their colour and texture contrasting with the outlines of modern buildings and the hard surface of the roadways.

Less than a year ago there was only one tree on the South Bank site — and that was hidden. Now there are more than sixty, the newcomers having been brought in from the counties nearby. There are water elms, maples, limes and poplars, whitebeams, birches, a Catalpa, a Turkey Oak and many others that are quite new to this area that only recently was a swamp.

The shrubs and flowers are planted, as in a city, in boxes and tubs, bringing the colours of spring and summer to the streets and courtyards of the Exhibition. Maintaining the freshness of the grounds are fountains, and standing water reflects the iridescent colours of ornamental ducks.

The consultant landscape architect is H. F. Clark.



Architect and Designer: Wells Coates, o.b.e.Theme: Malcolm Baker Smith


How it became possible to send moving pictures by radio is shown in the Communications Section of the “Transport” Pavilion. Here we are concerned with television as a new medium of entertainment — a medium that took scientists, engineers and producers, most of them British, a very short time to create.

Fifteen years ago, in 1936, the BBC installed the equipment that made television a practical medium of entertainment. Britain then became the first country in the world to operate a regular high-definition programme service.

The next stage was for the producers to evolve suitable techniques for production in this medium. This they did by drawing to a certain extent on the existing technique of the film, the stage and sound broadcasting, and developing some features that are peculiarly their own.

In the later 1930’s, five main patterns of television had begun to design themselves: news; documentary and education; drama; light entertainment; and outside broadcasts. The BBC mobile outside-broadcast vans brought drama and spectacle to the television audience, beginning in 1937 with the transmission of the Coronation procession of His Majesty the King. Then the war came; and 20,000 television screens went blank.

The BBC television service was formally reopened in June 1946. Now, in 1951, television is one of our well-established media of public entertainment and information. As such it will be playing a full part in the Festival of Britain, not only through its own studio performances but by vastly widening the audience for events arranged elsewhere.

1851 Centenary Pavilion


Architect: Hugh CassonDisplay Designer: James Gardner, o.b.e.

This miniature display commemorates the Great Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park exactly a hundred years ago.

The structure of the Pavilion is based on the designs of Joseph Paxton, architect of the Crystal Palace. At each end of the Pavilion are rotating screens with coloured peepshows of different views of the Great Exhibition of 1851. In the centre is an exact model of the Crystal Palace: below it, again in model form, is the scene at the opening ceremony. Among those present are Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the Royal children, the Princess Royal and the Prince of Wales; and, near them, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Palmerston.

A spoken description of the scene at the opening ceremony on May 1st, 1851, accompanies the display, interspersed with a selection from the musical programme that was played on that great occasion in British History.

The Shot Tower


Architecture and Design Treatment: Hugh Casson and James Gardner, o.b.e.

This Tower has been one of the landmarks of London since it was built in 1826. It remains, the only old building on the site, to serve as a beacon for the Festival. It is a beacon in two senses: it is a modern lighthouse with a double flashing beam welcoming visitors as far as 45 miles away when the weather is clear; it is a radio beacon directing radio signals to the moon and beyond it into outer space.

Originally the tower was built for making shot from lead. The molten metal dropping from the melting chamber at the top, formed perfect spheres as it cooled in its fall down the 120 feet within the tower. Those days are over now, but the tower still has a warm place in the heart of Londoners.

The lighthouse mounted at the top will flash from sunset to Exhibition closing time. It has a power of 3 million candles. It is of the most modern all-electric design and so takes up far less space than the older types which needed weighty lenses to intensify the beam. The light itself comes from a lamp of three thousand watts; an automatic device ensures that a second lamp can swing immediately into position should it fail. This lighthouse optic is the work of Chance Brothers, Ltd., who made all the glass for the original Crystal Palace a hundred years ago.


The radio beacon is above the lighthouse optic. The most obvious part of it is a large reflector which beams the signal from the aerial within it on to the moon. This is part of the radio telescope and is connected with the display in the Dome of Discovery by underground cable. In the Dome visitors can transmit signals to the moon and actually see them reflected back to the earth after about two and a half seconds.

The aerial of the equipment is placed on the top of the Shot Tower so that static interference from other electrical equipment nearby shall be at a minimum. The transmitter itself is unique in that it can operate whenever the moon is above the horizon. Earlier models can only be used at moonrise and moonset.

Visitors are able to see inside the Shot Tower. The entrance brings them onto a circular gallery. Above them, the original spiral staircase winds upwards to the top of the tower. Below, a kaleidoscope shows the varied character of the London scene in a changing pattern of pictures.

A short bridge leads from the Shot Tower to the brightly lit Tank Chamber where there is a small exhibit showing the development of the South Bank site.

Design Review

Display Designers: Neville Conder and Patience Clifford

Design Review presents to the British people and to their overseas visitors an illustrated record of contemporary achievement in British industry. It shows the high standard of design and craftsmanship that has been reached in a wide range of British products of to-day.

The actual examples displayed in the various Festival Exhibitions have had to be limited for reasons of space, and because not all of Britain’s products could fit into the particular stories that are told there. So, Design Review provides an opportunity for showing a wider and more up-to-date range of British industrial products than would otherwise be possible. It also contains an information service to answer queries on the products listed as well as exhibits shown in the Exhibitions, and a comprehensive display of trade and technical periodicals.

Design Review had its origin in the “Stock List” opened by the Council of Industrial Design in April 1948, as a pictorial index of contemporary British design, from which exhibits could be selected for display in the Festival Exhibitions. Manufacturers were asked to submit photographs, leaflets, or flat samples of their best products, and those reaching the required standard were accepted for the Stock List. The standard is not merely one of appearance or finish, but also of workmanship, technical efficiency, fitness for purpose and economy of production.

This Stock List has now become a reference work of value. It is always being revised and, as items will be added to it during the period of the Festival itself, Design Review displays will be the most up-to-date record in existence of British achievement in industrial design.

On the South Bank, Design Review is located in seven arches under the Waterloo Bridge approach. Each arch deals with a related group of industries.

The Royal Festival Hall


Architects: Robert Matthew and Dr. J.L. MartinChief Engineer: Joseph Rawlinson

It has always been intended that the permanent redevelopment plan for the South Bank should include the building of a concert hall to which London and Europe should look as an example of modern English architecture at its best, and as a well-tuned instrument for orchestras and conductors of international repute. When the South Bank site was chosen for the main Exhibition of the Festival of Britain, the Government invited the London County Council to press forward this part of its plans, so that the Hall might be ready for use during the summer of 1951.

The Royal Festival Hall, so named at the wish of His Majesty the King, is the only permanent building on the site of the Exhibition. The London County Council has borne full responsibility for its construction, and controls its maintenance and administration.

For the period 4th-9th of May 1951 the Council has arranged a series of inaugural concerts here, which Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Harry Blech will conduct. From 10th May to the end of June there will be daily concerts by the celebrated symphony orchestras of the country. These are part of the London Season of the Arts. There will then be important symphony, choral and orchestral concerts, and other events until the end of September. Two concerts of light music will be given every afternoon from 1st July onwards.

The simplicity of the external design of the Hall may give little hint of the care and skill which have gone into every detail of its construction. This has resulted not only in good acoustics, but also in the greatest comfort for audience and players. Innovations include the double-skinned wall, designed to exclude noise, and the tuning of the concert hall auditorium after the building work had been completed. The concert hall holds an audience of 3,300. There is also provision for an orchestra of over 100 and a choir of 250.

In addition, the Royal Festival Hall can claim to be a work of art in itself. The superb dramatic effects of space and vista, within the building and beyond it to the river and the city, are things which the visitor will discover for himself.

The Buildings Themselves

The first object of all exhibitions is to stimulate interest and excite the eye. For this reason they have always been the nurseries of new ideas in architecture. The layout and design of the South Bank Exhibition follows this tradition of experiment and adventure in building, and in two ways at least can be claimed to be unique.

It is the first exhibition of such a size ever to be designed in narrative form. This has meant that the Pavilions have had to be laid out in a particular order, so that their contents, taken consecutively, may tell a particular story. This has had to be done while maintaining at the same time a pleasing and coherent pattern to the eye.

Secondly, each Pavilion is itself designed in such a way that the first sight of it gives the visitor a foretaste of the part of the story that it tells. So the story of the Origins of the Land (“The Land of Britain”) is unfolded within a dim and haunted cave-like structure, covered on its outside with rocks and turf. The story of the Minerals of the Island is told at the bottom of a towering shaft; the narrative of Sea and Ships is developed amid an assembly of steel ribs, canvas and spars, with the wind and the weather looking in, as it were, at intervals. The great story of British Discovery is related in the huge aluminium saucer of the Dome of Discovery, a structure which is as adventurous, fantastic and technically triumphant as the history of British Discovery itself.

The decision to relate the appearance of each building to its contents obviously makes for excitement to the eye, but it increases the risk of disorder or lack of over-all harmony. But although some twenty separate architects were engaged, under Festival Office direction, upon the designing of these buildings, they have worked together as a team and pursued the same kind of approach to the problem in every case. Thus each individual structure, however enterprising or original in itself, has been co-ordinated into the one coherent narrative plan.

Harmony and variety of interest, both by day and night, have been achieved by means of careful grouping, imaginative contrast of colours, textures and silhouette, and above all by the background of trees, gardens, fountains and flowers against which all the buildings are set.

The superintending civil and structural engineers are Freeman, Fox and Partners, in association with R. T. James and Partners.

The Festival Church

St. John, Waterloo Road

Vicar: The Rev. E. V. Rhys ◦ Musical Director: Dr. W. N. McKie

The “Parish Church of the Festival” is the Church of St. John, Waterloo Road. It stands on the traffic roundabout, facing the Exhibition car park, so that visitors can easily find their way there as they leave the Exhibition through the York Road or Waterloo Bridge exits.

It is, then, so near the Exhibition as to be almost part of it, and yet, being outside the actual Exhibition grounds, it will be a real “place apart”. Nearly all the different denominations are arranging special services at one time or another.

The church was built originally by the government of the day as a thanksgiving for victory at Waterloo; it was badly damaged in 1940 by enemy bombs, and has now been rebuilt.

An attempt has been made to refurnish St. John’s in a manner which may set an example of art in the service of the Church. This theme will be expressed in fuller detail in an Exhibition at Lambeth Palace during June and July.

The services themselves will vary according to the accepted form of worship used by the different denominations which together make up our religious life in Britain. Similarly, addresses will be given every day by outstanding preachers of all denominations, and also by some well-known laymen.

Choirs from over 150 towns and villages throughout the country are coming to sing in the Festival Church and, over the five months of the summer, there will be an excellent opportunity for the visitor to hear the best and the most characteristic of our English church music.

In the evenings, the services are being supplemented by concerts, and religious drama. Particulars of these, and of the services, are available at the information kiosks and bookstalls in the Exhibition.

The chief times of weekday services arc: 8 a.m., 9.15 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4.30 p.m., and 8 p.m. daily. The Sunday services are at 8 a.m., 9.30 a.m., 11.30 a.m., and 7 p.m.