Once upon a time, in the place of the ‘South Kensington Campus of Imperial College London’ stood an architectural masterpiece known as ‘The Imperial Institute’. A small, yet quite revealing, sample of that work still remains in the form of the 85 metre Queen’s Tower, rising high above the ‘backyard’ of Imperial College, currently a campus characterised by cheap construction, lack of æsthetics and lots of concrete, steel and glass, and an increasingly annoying corporate identity.
The Imperial Institute was a neo-renaissance styled building, architected by Thomas Colcutt, built between 1887 and 1893. It covered 2 acres of land and was initially commissioned to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In 1956, and after the buidings of the Institute have suffered many years of neglect by their several ‘custodians’, it was decided that the Institute would be demolished to build new buildings for Imperial College. And in 1962, the combined stupidity of the 1960s academic vandals, architectural apes and administrative buffoons ‘replaced’ the Imperial Institute with the monstrosities one can see today, when visiting the South Kensington Campus of Imperial College.
In early 2004 the new Tanaka Business School was completed by Lord Foster’s architectural firm. This marks the second Foster building and provides a new entrance to the college – certainly an improvement over the frighteningly ugly previous one.
Yet it is certain, that no matter who or how they design new buildings, the splendour of the Imperial Institute’s buildings and gardens is lost forever.