Major concert hall located on Kensington Gore
, London SW7
The Hall of Arts and Sciences was constructed as part of Queen Victoria's consort Prince Albert's project for a cultural complex in Kensington in the mid 19th century, a project which eventually also incorporated Imperial College, the Science and Natural History Museums, the Victoria and Albert Museum and also linked in with the Great Exhibition of 1851. Prince Albert died before the building was completed and it was renamed for him.
The hall takes the form of a domed rotunda, with a central arena and a stage at the southern end, surrounded by a circle of tiered seating (the stalls), three superimposed levels of boxes, a second tier of seating (the balcony) and an gallery providing standing room. The arena can be used as a performance area, or for audience space when the stage is used, either standing or with removable seating. Because of financial problems during the construction a number of the seats were sold in perpetuity before the hall was opened and remain privately owned to this day. The range of configurations mean that the audience capacity varies, but it is generally around 5000. The hall had major acoustic problems with a noticeable echo in many parts of the hall; this was partially remedied in the early 1970s by the hanging of giant acoustic damping "mushrooms" below the dome. The hall was fitted with a Willis organ in the late 19th century; the instrument, although visually impressive, is somewhat wheezy today and not highly regarded by organists*. It is worth noting that the interior was rotated 180 degrees from the original design, with the result that what was designed as the main entrance (facing south, overlooking the steps up from Prince Consort Road) is in fact behind the stage.
The hall is independently managed and is now used for a wide range of public and private functions. The highest profile regular event is the eight-week season of Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, which moved to the hall in 1942 after its original venue (the Queen's Hall) was destroyed by bombing; these are now run by the BBC. It is also used for high profile rock concerts and sporting events, notably tennis (the Whiteman Cup) and boxing.
Some details still to be looked up. Please message with any corrections.
* The inestimable JudyT thinks that the organ has now been restored. It sounded like a steam engine the last time I heard it; to be verified.