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Hélène Solvay on Concert Hall Notebook 1951
4 March, 2021
In 1950, following her fourth year studying at the AA and prior to her final year of her degree, Jean Symons decided to consolidate the theory she had been taught during her education by engaging in practical ‘on site’ work. This took the form of a technical assistant position in the site office of the new concert hall – the Royal Festival Hall. The notebook is an account of Jean’s observations throughout her year of employment, ending with the inauguration of the hall.
I came across this diary when I was myself in my fourth year, studying Postwar architecture in my History and Theory course and participating in the organisation of AAXX 100 – (the 2017 celebration of 100 years of women studying at the AA). Having little to no on-site experience at the time myself, I was impressed with her technical understanding of the reality of a construction site. Her account is candid and humorous, and her observations are both precise and timeless – especially in her reading of the large construction site, as she emphasised the importance of human dynamics within a building team and the various trades. This is something that is often overlooked in descriptions of architectural works.