Tuesday, August 7, 2018


This was written 3 months ago, before I went to Tuscany and got carried away by a new obsession.  My conscience is nagging and I want to pick up the Bank of England model again.  Anyway here is a report of where things stood in March/April ...  "Open quotes"

Recent work has centred around Soane's North West Extension.  Perhaps now is a good time to present an overview of this phase of the Bank's development in the context of the whole scheme.  Right at the beginning of the Project Soane adventure I decided to invent a grid to act as a skeleton and allow the various spaces to be constructed to regular dimensions.  This is necessarily a fictitious abstraction but it really was the only way to prevent the work from becoming totally  chaotic.

There are three overlapping grid systems, coded as AB, CD & EF.  The individual grids then are numbered as A1, A2, A3 etc.  Clearly some walls are set at fractions of a degree to the grid, but we have resisted the temptation to introduce these irregularities.

In the first diagram, the colours are only there to clarify the areas where one of the three grid system is dominant.  But the colours can be used to indicate the main phases of the Bank's growth over time.  We need to add some red in the middle for Sampson's original double-courtyard block.  Then the pink on either side represents the work of his successor Taylor.  Soanes contributions included many alterations to these earlier building phases, but here we are concerned to identify his two major expansions of the Bank's area: to the North East and the North West.  As mentioned in the last post, the North-West extension required the acquisition of new land and the realignment of Princes Street.  This diagram also contains red chain lines that pick up some of the major axes and alignments.

We have been working on the Long Passage and the Waiting Room Court.  These are the major organising elements in this phase of Soane's work.  The long passage itself is a new route leading to the Director's Parlour from a new, discrete entrance in Princes Street and spiraling around the WRC to enter the Parlours via Taylors original entrance lobby.  The parlours themselves show up in an aerial view as an irregular pattern of small rectangular volumes, jammed between the old and the new.  We can imagine this as a necessary fracturing of the planning process in this collision zone.

At the opposite extreme we have Tivoli Corner, a formally planned device to terminate the whole scheme in a grand gesture of classical order.  I quite like this image which captures the sharp spike of Wren's St Margaret Lothbury alongside Soane's very different treatment of an acute angle in plan.

A birds eye view from behind Wren's spire puts things into a broader perspective.  The North West Extension is in effect a double courtyard block, like Sampson's original modest container.  That second courtyard is the Printing Court, a significant place in the spread of paper money to everyday use.  To the left we can see Lothbury Court, the central feature of Soane's earlier North-East extension (in orange)  We will get back to that eventually, but for the moment there is plenty to do, progressing the North West, home of the Long Passage.

The loggia was a new construction, but the second long run, turning sharp right, evolved from a major circulation route down the side of Sampson's rear courtyard.  To mark the entrance to the Director's Parlours, Soane added a shallow concave recess with rustication below a broad "picture rail" moulding. Above this is a very shallow part-dome below a flat arch, with a central reeding motif typical of Soane.  The rest of the passage is quite a complex composition that we are gradually working out based on incomplete information.

This last section features three ceiling bays split by beams with scrolled brackets, supported on fluted columns.  These are actually the three bays that look into the Bullion Court, via large arched windows.  The work on the Long Passage is heavily dependent on Section Boxes and it struck me that a section box around the WRC would give a very interesting insight into the relation between the  courtyard and the spaces around it, some of which are poorly understood at present.

Meanwhile the rusticated base of the WRC is shaping up very nicely.  Not sure what to call those two features like spinning tops that link the three arched windows.  You would imagine they were lighting fixtures if electricity had been around in Soane's time.

To the north of the Loggia is a large rectangular space labelled Chief Accountant which is also very under-developed.  A quick revisit has refined the spacing of the columns and replaced half cylinders with more accurate, (and rather grand) Ionic columns. The shallow vault of the ceiling should be coffered.  I wonder if I can persuade someone else to tackle that?

I managed a quick foray into the Printing Court which has an interesting doorway/portico with cannon balls in a pyramid stack.  This symbolises the barracks which moved into the basement of the Printing Court from its previous location.  Actually the basement is more of a ground floor in this location as the natural ground level slopes away towards Tivoli Corner.

So the Loggia and the Accountant's Office lie sandwiched between the two courtyards, which have a very different feel.  The WRC is very much a formal show-piece, viewed from the loggia by VIP visitors as they head towards the Directors Parlours.  Printing Court is much more "back of house" using Soane's face brick mode with round arched windows.  Lots of unfinished business in these images if you look closely.

It seems that I managed to make a start on the coffers of the accountant's office.  Probably there is scope for someone else to finish the job.  Also I managed a basic cornice moulding around the room above the columns tying everything together, and to rough out the two different "temple front" motifs that give character to the end walls.  I think that must have been my last spurt of effort on the bank before I turned my attention to Tuscany and then preparations for the BiLT conference in St Louis.

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