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The Town Hall at Birmingham has been elaborately decorated of late. The ceiling is enriched with Raffaellesque arabesques, and has been newly lighted by “sun-lights" in the three compartments of the ceiling-more than twelve hundred burners being required.
At Aldershott and Shorncliffe, the formation of the encampments has called for the erection of a large extent of hut and barrack accommodation. The huts first erected were strangely defective, as to proper construction and sanitary provisions.—Extensive barracks are being completed at Devonport; and for the militia, barracks have been erected at several places.
Since our notice of the new residence at Balmoral, the royal apartments have been occupied. At Windsor Castle, subterraneous passages beneath the quadrangle have been formed, for greater freedom of communication.
The new ball-room at Buckingham Palace, designed by Mr. Pennethorne (scarcely up to the mark of his usual skill), is, we hear, being decorated after a fashion which fills us with apprehension. Extensive surfaces loaded with smalt, and other heavy colours ; ornaments on the organ and elsewhere, poor in design, or tawdry,-the genius of commonplace in the art, and that of the paint-pot in the decoration : is this all that we English people can present in our palaces, and where we have not the usual excuse as to cost ? We doubt it-much as we have yet to learn in chromatic decoration. Mr. Grüner, who has the direction of these works, has been thrust forward as a sort of autocrat in England. Really we must either doubt the need of this, or--what we are less likely to do--the value altogether of German art. The old story about the sculptor who was told that, not being able to make his Venus beautiful, he had made her fine, seems to get its exact modern application in this present case. The consistent character of a ball-room, and what is more, the highest quality of art, require means apart from expenditure of money, which here seems to have been mistaken for—what however cannot be dispensed with—the expenditure of thought.
6.-BUILDINGS,-EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC, &c. The Crystal Palace at Sydenham during the last twelve months has been progressing as to internal effect. The trees and plants, with the sculpture, contribute to form a beautiful vista in the length of the building. The Hall of the Abencerrages in the Alhambra Court has been completed by Mr. Owen Jones, and realizes an effect of wonderful beauty. The power of harmonious colour was never more remarkable. The fountains inside have been completed and set to work, and the two bronze fountains in the northern basin, by Monti, with figures of the four quarters of the globe, are perhaps the finest works of the kind ever executed. The industrial courts have been completed, but have not succeeded as to their intended object ; indeed the whole industrial department is in an unsatisfactory state. A collection of raw produce has, however, been commenced in the north wing, and some machinery has been placed in the basement, and in the former there is much matter for instruction. A gallery of inventions also has been commenced. The management of the
refreshment department is improved. Outside the buildings, the fountains on the terrace have been playing regularly at stated times, and realize what was expected from them. The works in the grounds have been proceeded with; the “temples" at the head of the cascades have been finished, and are painted rather gaudily ; and various bronze tazzas and other ornaments have been placed at the sides of the cascades. Some doubt has been felt as to the strength of the water-pipes, and it would seem that the means of examining them are not adequate. It has been necessary to suspend the execution of some of the works from financial reasons,—the geological department in the grounds, and one division of the Alhambra Court, being amongst the works not complete. The building itself may be regarded as finished; and the water-towers, which had been taken down from doubts as to their safety, have been re-erected on larger areas of base. The railway station has been finished, and the ascent of steps is well planned for effect. The inconvenience of the communication, and the expense of visits, still interfere with the beneficial results of the undertaking, as regards a large class. The railway from the west of London is far advanced.
One or two new rooms devoted to Greco-Roman antiquities have been opened at the British Museum; and a portion of the basement, not originally intended for such purposes, has had to be turned to account. The decorations accord in style with those of other rooms. The new Reading-room now in progress in the inner quadrangle, will meet a want which has been long pressing. By the adoption of the circular form in combination with the other features in the new arrangement, the light in the old part is not interfered with ; an effective interior will be secured ; apparently ample elbow-room will be afforded to readers; and there will be a great increase of book space. Lavatories and a refreshment-room are still wanted. The entrance for readers will be through the main entrance-hall, in place of the roundabout back-way. The reading-room, or hall, will be in diameter 140 feet; and the height to the top of the central skylight will be 108 feet, taking the measurements in the clear, and before the fixing of book-cases. The dimensions nearly equal those of the Pantheon at Rome ; a building between 'which and that we are noticing, there are points of resemblance--whilst we believe the modern work goes far beyond the ancient example, if not beyond all examples of domed structures, in the amount of skill and contrivance brought to its execution. We refer here to the manner of forming the vault itself-providing the requisite channels for ventilation, and guarding against the spread of fire from external buildings to the interior of the hall, and vice versâ ; to the securing abundant light; taking up the minimum of space for supports, so as to give the utmost space for books; and providing the requisite counteraction to the thrust of the dome without cross-ties, or counterforts—which here would be in the way. The ingenious and elaborate structural contrivances by which all these objects are worked out, will be concealed when the work is complete ; and as they really form what is of chief interest, we regret we cannot explain their nature by the required large illustrations. We may say, however,
that the supports consist of uprights of cast-iron, (massive enough, though barely discernible on our plan) carrying a ring of girders locked together; the latter bearing the dome, which is to be formed with iron ribs and ties, and brick and tile work, and is to be covered with copper. The hall is lighted partly on the principle of the Pantheon dome; that is by a light at the top—here 40 feet in diameterand partly by 20 large windows round the base. Beneath the whole floor will be a chamber for the accumulation of fresh air, moderately heated by hot-water pipes,—the air being passed into the room by numerous apertures. Arrangements for the summer ventilation are also provided. The supply of air is drawn from a vertical shaft. The reading-room is estimated to provide for 100,000 volumes of reference, and about 400 readers at tables radiating from the centre, where the superintendent's raised platform, and the catalogues in concentric cases, will be placed. The new portions (external to the circle) which have ridge and furrow top lights, are chiefly to provide additional stowage for books. The books are to stand on light racks, or cases of wrought iron. The increase of space is very great. The panels of the finished vault will be formed of papier mâché, and may be decorated with paintings. Mr. Sydney Smirke is the architect of these works; and whether the suggestion of a conversion of the quadrangle be due to him, or to Mr. Hosking, or others, the actual design and construction do him the highest possible credit.
Reference to Plan.
I Entrance Hall of Museum.
K For Registration of Copyrights.
L Gentlemen's Cloak Room.
N Ladies' Cloak Room.
O Attendant's Room.
R Entrance for Readers. S Ventilating Shafts. At Oxford, buildings are in progress for the University Museum, from the design of Sir Thomas Deane and Messrs. Deane and Woodward. The main portion of the space, according to the requirement of the Delegacy, is to be covered with a roof of iron and glass,—but the principal building at the front, is to display ranges of pointedheaded windows, in the manner of the style of Venetian-Gothic, beloved of the Ruskinite clique, to which latterly some few architects seem to have been drawn. The design is, however, superior to much of the Venetian-Gothic work. It has a central feature, carried up tower-wise, to level with the apex of the general high pitched roof, and itself crowned by a lofty truncated roof and ornamental iron work. The main iron roof affords opportunity for enlarging upon the excellent principle of the old metal work, in a novel form of application ; and it is from such opportunities that the chief progress of art should be made to result. This part of the design is given to Mr. Skidmore, who has shown some skill in the department of art in question.
Schools and colleges, still rising in all parts of the country, show the greater attention which is being paid to education. Improved arrangements for ventilation, and in the fittings, are constantly studied, and external architectural character is rightly made a matter of consideration. Mr. Wyatt, in St. Aidan's College, Birkenhead; Mr. P. C. Hardwick, in St. Augustine's College, Canterbury ; Mr. Daukes, in combined schools and chapel at Wednesbury; Mr. T. D. Barry, at Liverpool ; and Mr. Messenger, Mr. Clutton, and Mr. Ferrey at various places, have executed works which would be well deserving of notice. The Commercial Travellers' Schools at Pinner have been completed, and opened. For the Wellington College, to be erected at Sandhurst, for the orphan sons of officers, Mr. John Shaw has made designs. His manner resembles that. known from some of the works of Wren. The lowest tender is for 36,1751.
7.—MISCELLANEOUS Works, SANITARY, &c. The Cattle Market in Copenhagen Fields, of which a plan was given in our last, has been completed and opened. Pending the settlement of the London sewerage question, there is some difficulty about the drainage ; and some of the graziers are said to think the site too much exposed; but the contrast between the new market and the old one is like that between a drawing-room and a hovel. Mr. Bunning is entitled to great praise, both on account of bis minute attention to every requisite, and for the character of design in the buildings. *—Mr. James Murray has designed an effective building, now completing at Coventry—a corn exchange—and another at St. Alban's. Mr. Sydney Smirke has in hand some additions to Bethlehem Hospital, to serve as kitchen-offices, which will be better noticed in our next publication, when they may be completed. The French Government promptly gave elaborate plans and explanations of the arrangement of the offices in their departmental asylums (after the Governors of Bethlehem Hospital had stated their belief that hints might be useful), with a cordial expression of the Emperor's satisfaction in rendering such assistance. À new wing has been added to the Free Hospital in Gray's-Innlane, as a memorial of the Duke of Sussex. The front, which is of stone, has a tablet with inscription, the arms of the Duke, and a statue, and is terminated with a pediment. Messrs. Nelson and Innes were the architects.
The City of London Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, in Bonner's-fields, Victoria-park, by Mr. F. W. Ordish, has an exterior of plain character, but of which the result is successful, the breaks being well grouped, and the high-pitched roof, disposition of the chimneys, and the centre clock-turret, contributing to effect at little cost. About 80 in-patients are now accommodated. The cost of the works, with gas-fittings, was about 17,2001. The Asylum for Idiots at Reigate has been opened since we noticed it a year ago.
* In the plan last year, the meat market, and perhaps some of the lairs, now only partly built, were shown as finished ; and the letters G G should refer to abreuvoirs for bullocks, that is, water-troughsm-standing in front of the lairs.