Chelsea School of Art

I spent the last three days at Chelsea School of Art doing a short course on architectural photography, hoping to upgrade what I now realise is my hopelessly amateurish photography by way of a mobile phone – no retouching, no photoshop.

Yesterday morning’s exercise was to document the old historic building of the Royal Army Medical College, which occupies part of what was, once upon a time, the site of the old Millbank Prison – alongside the Tate.

The bulk of the new hospital building was designed by John Henry Townsend Wood and Wilfred Ainslie round a courtyard (they formed a partnership in 1887, having both worked for Ewan Christian, the architect of the National Portrait Gallery). A piece of institutionalised baroque, the language of the late nineteenth century.

This is the main building seen across the courtyard from the Tate:-

The flanking buildings have more character:-

An Officer’s Mess was added next door (70 officers, plus space for the Commandant), again by Wood and Ainslie (nobody probably recognises this façade because the traffic roars past):-

There’s a Henry Moore outside – Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 1, 1959 (there is another cast in St. Louis Art Museum) – no doubt a survival of the days when Henry Moore taught sculpture at Chelsea:-

The building was taken over by the University of the Arts some time in the late 1990s. I remember the campaign, helped by the proximity of the Tate. It required the government to accept a lower bid on grounds of appropriateness of use. Then, the buildings were converted into an art school by Allies and Morrison, so the interiors have an odd mix of art school and officer’s mess:-


2 thoughts on “Chelsea School of Art

  1. sandynairne says:

    I enjoyed these photographs, not least because I think Allies and Morrison did a good job on the renovation; also because the images reminded me of the poignancy of the moat of the former Millbank Penitentiary still visible nearby. Behind the Moore sculpture you caught the bollard with its inscription explaning how this was the departure point (until 1867) for many being transported to Australia.

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