Designing the Future: Innovation and the Construction of the Royal Albert Hall

A Leverhulme Trust funded project exploring the history of the Royal Albert Hall, a Victorian icon.

About the Project

Despite its significance, the Royal Albert Hall, conceived by Prince Albert after the Great Exhibition, has not yet undergone a thorough historical investigation. This Leverhulme Trust/V&A project explores how in the building’s very fabric science, art, industry and craft were meant to be fostered.


'Designing the Future' investigates how the Royal Albert Hall came to be the iconic building we now know. How did the design evolve both in terms of its constructive and technical specifications and its decorative schemes? A further focus point of the research is the design process and the tools used to transform an idea into a built artefact: from contracts to drawings, to models and photography. A variety of individual actors and institutional players were involved in shaping the fabric and its narratives and it is fascinating to trace the social and political forces at play here.


This project aims at unearthing the history of the Royal Albert Hall, making extensive use of contemporary sources and a wealth of archival materials and historical objects that have so far been overlooked or under-used. 'Designing the Future' connects research in the histories of science, construction and economics.


In time for the upcoming 150th anniversary of the opening of the Royal Albert Hall in 1871, the project will produce fresh and more in-depth knowledge about its conception and construction, linking it to three wide-ranging themes: Building Modernity, Building Science and Building the Nation. The results will be shared with the public through blog posts and will be published in a variety of contexts. Detailed knowledge about a number of artefacts connected with the building of the Hall will be developed and shared through public facing channels both at the Hall and at the V&A.

Project updates
31 January 2021
Celebrating 150 Years of the Royal Albert Hall. 1/12: The Great Organ
1871-2021: the Royal Albert Hall’;s 150th anniversary. A montly series of blog posts uncovering the history of the Building. We start with the Great Organ, under construction in January 1871 .
9 July 2019
@Cole-onia. The Royal Albert Hall, Henry Cole, Satire, and Performing Science in Victorian London.
In June 1867, the satirical weekly newspaper “Fun” in its regular column “Town talk – by saunterer in society” published a short piece on the Royal Albert Hall. The Hall was in construction in South...
27 July 2021
‘Baked clay’ and ‘artificial stone’: the 19th century rediscovery of ancient building materials
The ‘rediscovery’ of terracotta as architectural material in Britain [Link to previous post] goes back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. In this period different firms and individuals conducted experiments around the production of...
The Team
Project Lead

V&A Research Department and V&A/RCA History of Design programme


Roam the building in this guided tour of the museum's unique decorative mosaic features. Discover the incredible mosaics that adorn our building and the innovation and technical mastery they demonstrate.

This display, supported by the Royal Albert Hall, explores the fascinating story of the Hall's design through a variety of historic models, photographs and casts as 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the Hall’s creation.