Bank of England is among the eight banks which is officially authorised to issue banknotes in the United Kingdom. Soane’s work at the Bank of England in the centre of the City of London continued almost throughout his life. Today only the fine outer screen wall which surrounds the Bank survives and even that was re-built at Tivoli Corner, its most spectacular point. Inside, the series of marvellous top-lit banking halls can only be seen in the distorted form in which they were re-built by Sir Herbert Baker in 1921-37, though it is worth seeking the necessary special permission to visit them.
The building of the Bank of England in 1791—1833 in turn, involved the replacement of some of Taylor’s work, though the Court Room and its surroundings were intact until Baker moved its position and destroyed most of the plasterwork.
John Soane’s Bank Stock Office of 1791-92 was the prototype of the classic Soane interior, with simplified Greek detailing, shallow arches and vaults of great lightness and indirect daylighting developed from Taylor’s earlier experiments. During the next six years up to 1798, the Consols Office, the 4% and 5%, Office and others added a series of brilliant interiors grouped around the great Rotunda (1794-95). The John Soane design of the Rotunda was inspired from the Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli.
The Screen Wall was started in 1795 and built in stages around the site until 1826. Accounts of the progress of the building up to 1833 will be found in Sir John Summerson’s and Dorothy Stroud’s books on Soane, and it is at least fortunate that good photographs were taken of the ten or so great banking halls and the other offices and courtyards which made up the huge building. An intense impression of Soane’s mastery of lighting and space emerges from this series of pictures and a clear vision of the particular contrast between his pleasure in bold solid forms and his liking elsewhere for making thick arches appear almost as thin as paper.
An intense impression of Soane’s mastery of lighting and space emerges from this series of pictures and a clear vision of the particular contrast between his pleasure in bold solid forms and his liking elsewhere for making thick arches appear almost as thin as paper. The windowless walls of the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street punctuated only by an entrance monumental door and one less than modest statue (posing in the style of a greek god) of its architect are all that’s left standing of the original design by Sir John Soane.
Sir Herbert Baker’s Design
The impenetrable perimeter, that encloses a trapezium of three and a half acres, was so well planned and designed to protect the Bank, that it is the only thing that remained unchanged since 1828, despite the fact that the actual interior of the building has been completely altered and re-ordered. These structural changes were carried out by the architect Herbert Baker between 1925 and 1939.
The demolition of the Soane’s masterpiece began in 1925, leaving only the exterior wall on the perimeter of the city blocks the bank occupies. The bank was demolished as it was unable to meet the bank’s workload and accommodate the staff. The design for the new bank was given by Sir Herbert Baker which has a grandiose structure. The old building of the Bank had no mere than three storeys. But the building designed by Baker has a total of seven storeys above ground apart from the three storeys underground. This was done to accommodate the increasing staff and workload of the Bank of England.
Two architectural tributes are made to Sir John Soane inside the Bank of England Museum. The first of them is the Bank Stock Office designed in 1793 which has been reconstructed in the same as the original design. This airy room reflects the time before the world got ATMs, online banking and debit cards.
Today only the stock office and the perimeter wall designed by Sir John Soane is left after the renovation by Sir Herbert Baker. But amidst all of this, the bank will have a virtual rebirth based on Soane’s original design which has been made possible by the generous grant made from Hewlett Packard. A crowdsourced virtual model based on the original design of Bank of England is being created. For this, HP has teamed up with Robert A.M. Stern Architects along with NVIDIA, AutoDesk, CASE, Sir John Soane’s Museum, and CGarchitect who will oversee the quality and design control of the model.
This model will be built using the well preserved and of substantial quality drawings, model, and documentation made by John Soane while designing the Bank of England. With this project, a lost treasure of architectural history will be brought back for the people to be acknowledged.