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Albertopolis: Where Art and Science Collide

6 August 2013 | Charlie Kenber

The heart of coexistence between the arts and sciences for over 150 years, Albertopolis is one of London’s cultural heartlands. This September a TEDx event will explore such collaboration...

Do the arts and sciences have to be distinct? Did you, like myself, find yourself choosing between the two at school? Although specialisation is of course necessary, greater communication between the two fields would certainly be of mutual benefit.

The idea of such cooperation is not a new one. In 1851, following the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, Prince Albert strongly supported the principle that art and science should work side by side for the public good. He believed that through direct collaboration the two could benefit the nation as a whole.

In support of this clearly intelligent idea, TEDxAlbertopolis comes to the Royal Albert Hall this September. An independently-organised event supported by TED, the event is a day of talks and discussions, featuring speakers in a celebration of cross-disciplinary collaboration. The names already confirmed include the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, as well as David Braban FREng: computer scientist, developer and a “British video game legend” according to The Times.

The venue is an even wiser choice than it would perhaps seem at first glance. It is of course one of London’s premiere cultural locations full stop, having hosted the very best in live performances for over the past century and a half, of course including the world-renowned BBC Proms. However, the Royal Albert Hall has also hosted talks and discussions featuring the likes of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Professor Richard Dawkins. Indeed the building was originally opened as The Royal Albert Hall of the Arts and Sciences, although that is frequently shortened.

It is equally of no surprise that such an event should come to the area of London known as Albertopolis in homage to Prince Albert, upon whose principles it was founded. Bordered by Exhibition Road, Cromwell Road, Queen’s Gate and Hyde Park, the area itself contains an astonishing quantity of world class institutions: as well as the Royal Albert Hall itself there is the Royal Geographical Society, Imperial College London, the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum, the Royal College of Art, and the Royal College of Music.

Such an impressive collection of institutions were originally founded through a heavy investment of profits from the Great Exhibition itself. So profitable was the Exhibition, that it’s organising body, The Commission for the Great Exhibition of 1851, survives to this day, and continues to support research and academic advancement through grants. The same body is supporting TEDxAlbertopolis.

Albertopolis contains a range of spectacular architecture, with many of its modern institutions housed in Victorian-era buildings. Last year a three-year renovation project came to a close, which transformed it into the largest pedestrianised cultural area in Europe: an attractive prospect for tourists, researchers and students alike. As Chris Cotton, the Chief Executive at the Royal Albert Hall describes it, “Albertopolis is seen by many as the cultural heartland of London and the ultimate destination for anyone with a thirst for discovery and creativity.”

So in the true spirit of the area, TEDxAlbertopolis will take an unparalleled look at the different cultures of art and science, whilst celebrating the ideas, motifs, concepts and philosophies that have thrived within the area’s world-class institutions. Exploring the meeting point of art and science, music and technology, and design and engineering, the event is also a celebration of Albertopolis itself: a cultural hub truly at the forefront of artistic and scientific collaboration.

TEDxAlbertopolis takes place on the 23rd September 2013. Tickets and further information available here.

More information about Exhibition Road available here.

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