Odds and quads

These are the original designs for the dioramas created for London's Commonwealth Institute by one of the UK's leading post-war designers, James Gardner (1907-95).

December 13, 2012

A legacy of the Imperial Institute established in 1887, the Commonwealth Institute opened in Holland Park in 1962 and attempted to reflect the new era of decolonisation, although it still revealed some far more traditional attitudes alongside the rhetoric of democratic and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Gardner's dioramas combine contemporary industrial development with then fashionable notions of the exotic.

Although the Commonwealth Institute closed in 2002, three years later English Heritage declared it, along with the Royal Festival Hall, to be "one of the two most important post-war buildings in London".

It is scheduled to house the city's Design Museum from 2014.

Best known for his exhibition work, Gardner also turned his hand to everything from illustration to ship design. His original plans and drawings, as well as business correspondence and private papers, are now held in a collection at the University of Brighton Design Archives.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz @tsleducation.com.

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