‘But Indifferently Lodged…’: Perception and Place in Building for Science in Victorian London
It was not unusual in the second half of the nineteenth century to hear scientists claiming that they were shabbily accommodated and warranted more generous provision from the public purse or from their university coffers. The inadequacies of existing spaces loomed large in successive Select Committees of Enquiry. Much of the time of course this was a highly debatable assertion. Certainly it became a standard element of the rhetoric, both verbal and visual, which was deployed in efforts to gain more space and prestige for scientific activities. By contrast it is arguable that in the great expansion of university building which took place in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, science was more privileged than most in straightforward quantitative measures of space. Science buildings often took the lion’s share of space in the new colleges and universities which emerged in the industrial towns of the north and the midlands. In London there were already two well established colleges, University College and King’s, though both of these had problems in terms of their sites as well as finance. A third area began to emerge from the 1850s in South Kensington, where the whole site appeared magnificently generous in spatial terms, but development would be plagued by competing interests, Treasury economies, changes of Government, architectural argument, let alone the haphazard piling up of collections which urgently needed to be housed. The general picture however painted by contemporaries was that there was not enough space, and indeed the acquisition of new buildings and facilities was sometimes presented simply as a minor victory in an on-going battle.
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- 1.The six groups were, and still are, Abstract Relations, Space, Matter, Intellect, Volition and Affections.Google Scholar
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