exhibition archive

DOME: Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain

curatorial concept and design: Donald Smith

12.09.12 – 20.10.12

exhibition info | press release | images | reviews | private view | publication | invitation


Download Press Release as PDF


Private view: Tuesday 11th September 2012 6 – 8.30pm


As part of the 2012 London Design Festival and Icon Design Trail CHELSEA space presents an exhibition celebrating the work of Ralph Tubbs the architect of the iconic Dome of Discovery constructed for the Festival of Britain in 1951. The Exhibition will focus on Tubbs’ personal archive for the Dome and will include previously unseen drawings, photographs and personal mementos. The exhibition will also include a collection of general memorabilia from this landmark event in the cultural life of 20th Century Britain.

The 1951 Festival of Britain was organised by Clement Attlee’s Labour government to promote the UK and help the British people recover a sense of optimism and pride after the trauma of the Second World War and the austerity that followed. The Festival (100 years after the great Exhibition of 1851) highlighted Britain’s contribution to science, Technology, Industrial Design, Arts and Architecture; the exhibition inside The Dome of Discovery was divided into sections about The Land, The Earth, Polar, Sea, Sky, Outer Space, The Physical World, and The Living World. Sadly, the Dome was quickly demolished and sold for scrap by the incoming Conservative government led by Winston Churchill in 1952.

Ralph Tubbs OBE FRIBA (1912-1996) studied at the Architectural Association in London and then went on to work for the renowned architect Ernö Goldfinger. Tubbs’ buildings include the YMCA Indian Student Hostel in Fitzrovia, Baden-Powell House Kensington, and the Charing Cross Hospital. His dome stood 93 feet tall and, with a diameter of 365 feet, was the largest dome in the world at the time. Richard Rogers’ Millennium Dome (currently known as the O2 Arena), built in Greenwich as part of the British celebrations for the year 2000, takes the 1951 dome as a point of reference, has the same 365 diameter in metres and is, in part, a tribute to the architecture of Ralph Tubbs.

The exhibition concept and design is by CHELSEA space Director Donald Smith

The archive of Ralph Tubbs has been kindly loaned by his son, the architect, Jonathan Tubbs and the Festival of Britain memorabilia is from the collection of designer and historian Nigel Bents. The show is part of the London Design Festival 2012.

As with each exhibition at CHELSEA space, a new black and white illustrated publication will accompany the show, featuring specially written texts by Jonathan Tubbs and the architectural critic Charles Knevitt, architectural writer, curator and journalist and former Director of the RIBA Trust.

Research Fellows at CHELSEA space are supported by The Ashley Family Foundation and Chelsea Arts Club Trust.

Press Information
For further information, images or to discuss interviews please contact: Caitlin Smyth at CHELSEA space via email info@chelseaspace.org or tel 020 7514 6983

Notes to Editors
Biographies available upon request. Full list of works available upon request. About: CHELSEA space is a public exhibiting space, sited on the Millbank campus of Chelsea College of Art & Design, where invited art and design professionals are encouraged to work on experimental curatorial projects.

In copy please refer to CHELSEA space and not ‘The CHELSEA space.’

Gallery opening times: Tue – Fri: 11:00 – 17:00, Sat: 10:00 – 16:00
Private view: Tuesday 11th September, 18:00 – 20:30
Admission: FREE
16 John Islip Street, London, SW1P 4JU

Chelsea College of Art and Design is one of the world’s leading art and design institutions. Located at Millbank, next door to Tate Britain, Chelsea specialises in Fine Art, Graphic Design and Interior and Textiles Design. Since its origins in the 19th century, the College has produced many of the greatest names in the arts, including: Quentin Blake (illustrator and author) Ralph Fiennes (film and stage actor), Anish Kapoor (sculptor), Steve McQueen, (artist), Chris Ofili (artist), Alan Rickman (film and stage actor), Alexei Sayle (comedian) and Gavin Turk (sculptor).

Operating at the heart of the world’s creative capital, University of the Arts London is a vibrant international centre for innovative teaching and research in arts, design, fashion, communication and the performing arts. The University is made up of six Colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Art. Renowned names in the cultural and creative sectors produced by the University include 12 Turner prize winners and over half of all nominees, 10 out of 17 fashion designers named British Designer of the Year, more than half of the designers showcased in London Fashion Week and 12 out of 30 winners of the Jerwood Photography Award.


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Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain


Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain


Ralph Tubbs and the Festival of Britain