A London Ramble – Robots, V&A and the Design Museum

Well its been a while… not that I haven’t been writing but in the past handful of months nearly every milisecond has been taken up with churning out endless essays and realising that three years into my degree I probably understand less about archaeology than I did when I was significantly less in debt. What little break I have had since October disappeared into a black-hole of flu and family medical emergencies which also had the unfortunate side effect that I was the only functioning person who could ferry my brother to his endless university interviews. To add to this my laptop committed harakiri by somehow magically jumping off a flat surface and until my finances improve I’m having to beg, borrow and steal (not quite resorted to that yet) computer access.

The giant clock forever reminded me how little time I have left at university!

Anyway since I’ve now only got my dissertation to focus on – starts using excavation skills to dig a hole to sit in manically laughing whilst trying to hide from impending doom – I thought I’d occasionally take a break from my academic insanity with the odd blog post. So off we go…

One slight  advantage of taking my brother to varying university interviews is the experience to travel. York has now been replaced by Norwich as my favourite English cathedral/minster city and Hendon is… not sure but I spent several hours in a campus foyer there. Anyway last week I ended up in South London shoving my brother through yet another door with a perfunctory good luck before wondering off for a couple of hours.. or so I thought. Having wandered down to Peckham I came across the amazing Persepolis, a Persian corner shop which stocks an amazing myriad of Middle Eastern produce. As soon as I’d crossed the threshold however I noticed my phone buzzing and apparently by brother had been waiting for me to collect him for a while. Three hours of travel and his interview lasted a measly ten minutes.

Design Museum

Since this was his last interview as a treat we headed to the Robots Exhibition at the Science Museum and having disposed of a cumbersome art portfolio (in a cloakroom not a bin!) we then discovered that there were no tickets until the afternoon due to something called half term. I had noticed that the average museum-goer in South Kensington that weekday was surprisingly baby-faced. Anyway wolfing down lunch under the benign golden gaze of Prince Albert in Kensington Gardens we headed down to London’s newest museum – the Design Museum.

Interior of the Design Museum – a waste of space?

My thoughts on the Design Museum; in all honesty I doubt I’ll be visiting again to look at the permanent collections. Whilst the building itself is relatively large, the free displays appear in a small area on the top floor and seem rather disjointed and not fully expressing the long British history of design. Often displays felt like they focused on being interesting design rather than interesting the viewer in the designs of the objects themselves. With large amounts of the museum were given over to a bar, restaurant and members lounge, it felt more a venue than a fully functioning museum which was incredibly disappointing especially in comparison to continental museums with a similar remit such as Copenhagen’s Design Museum and Vienna’s MAK (or Applied Arts Museum).dsc03080

Science Museum

Returning to the Science Museum, we first went to a free special centenary exhibition: Wounded – Conflict, Casualties and Care. Whilst nearly a million British military personnel were killed, two million were wounded and the exhibition focused on the medical challenges faced on the front line and back home. The exhibits focused on break-throughs in this period, such as blood transfusion, x-rays as well as focusing on the varying responses to PTSD both then and among contemporary veterans.

Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

From the sombre history of past medicine to futuristic engineering in Robots. This exhibition was utterly bizarre but did lead me to conclude that robots aren’t going to be taking over the universe any time soon. It’s taken nearly three years for one of the world’s most advanced robots to tell the difference between a banana and an apple of its own accord and the majority still struggle to walk long distances without swiftly draining their batteries. Others were plain surreal with the Japanese Telenoid meant to be hugged during long-distance calls with the facial features changing to match what is being said by the caller – I personally feel more comfortable with the idea of Skype.

Japan’s Telenoid robot ft. Ikea sofa – a technological advance too far?

My personal favourite was Toyota’s Harry from the Concero Robot Band (see a performance below). It wasn’t all bizarrely futuristic with some historic robots being incredibly intricate such as the 17th century fish-catching swan as well as a reconstruction of my namesake – the robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The tickets are quite pricey at about £13.50 for a student but Museums Association members have free access so visiting this exhibition alone nearly covered my quarterly membership fee!

Victoria and Albert Museum

Having had our fill of science, my brother headed off to pay homage to the dinosaurs so I returned to my favourite of South Kensington’s big three – the V&A. Having wandered around a surprising interesting exhibition about Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard’s father) and his involvement in the art of the Punjab, I then followed it up with a visit to the V&A’s specialist India galleries, visiting Tipu’s tiger for the first time – the bizarre automaton created for a sultan showing a Tiger savaging a European man. dsc03139

Morris, Proctor and Gamble tea rooms at the V&A


Soon though, reunited with my brother and starting to flag after several hours of hardcore museum-crawling, we headed to my favourite room within the whole V&A – the tea rooms and yes the coffee may be on the expensive side, you don’t however get the same atmosphere in any Costa, although here they did have William Morris helping with the designs! Post tea-break we continued meandering round the museum, and even revisiting galleries here, a new artefact will always strike you – this time it was the moving pottery sculpture of a dead girl, Lydia Dwight. Finally though having been visually scarred by my brother trying on a ruff and previous caffeine fix only creating functional levels of energy we decided to head off into the sunset reunited with the cumbersome art portfolio.

Pottery sculpture of Lydia Dwight Dead – 1674





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