The Development of Modern Classicism: Sir John Soane’s Bank of England and Edwin Lutyens’s House of the Viceroy

Project Description

The relationship between classicism and the architecture of authority would take a curious twist in the English context: a strain of vernacular classicism, developed in a highly personal manner, would become the face of British Empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Both Sir John Soane and Sir Edwin Lutyens developed highly personal formal idioms, a creativity perhaps fostered by their lack of academic training; each was highly synthetic in their influences and methods, and evinced a comfort with nuanced departures from the classical canon.

The architectural climax of both Soane’s Bank of England and Lutyens’ Viceroy’s House is a domed hall derived from the Pantheon. The domed form itself carries an embedded meaning, but is adapted from its origins as a religious temple to a political expression.  Both architects strip the typology down to its elemental geometry, then reconstruct it in their own idiosyncratic manner.  Our triptych model compares these manipulations of archetypal form and variations in entrance sequence and program. The first panel demonstrates the elemental geometry to which both Soane and Lutyens refer. The second panel examines the sectional and programmatic variations in each architect’s interpretation of this type, while the third panel studies the resulting effects on massing and detail.