Commonwealth Institute

RMJM, London, 1962


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From Kensington High Street 

Henk Snoek     Download Original

  • From Kensington High Street    
  • Canopy leading to entrance    
  • View of hyperbolic paraboloid roof and west administration block    
  • Central platform    
  • Cinema    
  • Art galley    
  • Inner part of roof    
  • Square hyperbolic paraboloid roof    
  • Basement floor plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • First floor plan    
  • Section through ancillary block    
  • Section through galleries    
  • East-west section     
  • South-north section     
  • Model    
  • The refurbished exterior of the institute    
  • The orginal roof held in place by poles tied through to the inside    
  • The patched up glazing prior to refurbishment    
  • Copper roof detail    

The Institute comprises an exhibition space on several levels, a library and visitor facilities under a 'tent-like' roof

Project architect Robert Matthew sought, in this project, to achieve the concept of a 'tent in the park'. This informs the practical and aesthetic features of the design.

The interior of the main building is designed as a three-level exhibition hall. Inside a series of platforms accommodate ancillary functions of administration offices, a library, and cafe-restaurant. These areas are planned around a central exhibition area, which has an open-plan, flexible space.

The platforms are made with brick plinths surrounded by a wall of vertical patent aluminium glazing with a blue-green glass infil.

The halls' tent-like roof stretches across the whole building, allowing a spacious interior to remain unobstructed by large structural supports. It is parabaloid in shape and made from copper and is supported from inside at points on the upper gallery.

The plan of the exhibition building is a diamond shape, contrasting with the rectangular administration block alongside. The long block contains an art gallery which is naturally lit by coffered rooflights. There is a cinema underneath.


  • Begun: 1960
  • Completed: Nov 1962
  • Floor area: 12,000m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Tender date: 1958
  • Address: Commonwealth Institute, Kensington High Street, London, W8 6NQ, United Kingdom

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