Peter Murray


In this article from issue 473 of the Journal of the London Society, Sarah Yates looks at the legacy of the 1851 Great Exhibition

‘… we should ensure that the Great Exhibition of 1851 should not become a transitory event of mere temporary interest, but that its objects would be perpetuated, that the different industrial pursuits of mankind, Arts and Sciences should not again relapse into a state of comparative isolation from each other, in which their progress is necessarily retarded …’ Observations on the Application of the Surplus of the Exhibition of 1851 by His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, August 1851

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851


‘Innovation’ has become the watchword of the global economy in the 21st century. While cities have always been places where people gather to discuss and debate ideas, the production of new knowledge – and from it, novel products, services and technologies – can give a city competitive advantage in this age of automation, disruptive technologies and global communication. Fundamental transformations in the way that we work, live and learn have started to lead to greater interdisciplinary collaboration, and physical location and proximity to other like-minded people have become ever more important in order to support the spontaneous personal interactions, sharing of ideas and inspiration that lead to advances in knowledge. From this has developed the idea of the urban ‘innovation district’: places where universities and research centres cluster, along with cultural and scientific organisations and enterprises large and small; designed to attract the most talented and highly skilled, and with a well-designed and diverse urban environment with high-quality public realm to promote open working and collaboration. New innovation districts are emerging across the capital – from the Knowledge Quarter at King’s Cross to the Cultural and Education District planned for the regeneration of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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