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image SM Adam volume 1/62

Reference number

SM Adam volume 1/62


[27] Preliminary design for the Haymarket (east) front of the opera house, c1789, unexecuted


Elevation of a three-storey, seventeen-bay building, with a rusticated arcade at the ground-storey level, and the central five bays form a raised, balustraded, Corinthian portico, with scrolled hearts enclosing anthemia in the capitals. This is surmounted by a plinth with a frieze of continuous circles, and supporting a royal coat of arms, flanked by a recumbent lion and unicorn, bearing festoons. The plinth terminates in pedestals ornamented with rosettes, and bearing statuary. Beyond this there is a drum ornamented with festoons, rosettes, and a band of fluting, and surmounted by a stepped, ribbed dome supporting statuary. The portico is flanked by three-bay, balustraded links, with balustraded, semi-circular-headed windows, set behind Corinthian screens, at the first-storey level. Above the windows there is a fluted string course, panels ornamented with half putti and arabesques, and a frieze of swags and rosettes. The building terminates in three-storey, three-bay pavilions. At the first-storey level there are balustraded, tripartite windows, set with Corinthian screens, and within relieving arches, and flanked by giant Corinthian pilasters. Above this there are friezes of fluting and rosettes. The pavilions are surmounted by plinths, with friezes of swags and rosettes, and central panels containing lions, unicorns and arabesques. The plinths are surmounted by lyres, flanked by reclining figures bearing musical instruments, and recumbent sphinxes


to a scale


60 (pencil, modern curatorial hand)

Signed and dated

  • c1789

Medium and dimensions

Pencil on laid paper (420 x 244)


Robert Adam




Bolton suggests that this design may be incorrectly inscribed, and alternatively may form part of a scheme for Parliament House, Edinburgh. There are similarities in the designs, but the use of the Royal Coat of Arms and musical motifs suggest that it does in fact form part of the opera house scheme. This is further indicated by the seventeen-bay formation used, as Iain Gordon Brown highlights, the design for Parliament House is for a thirteen-bay building, and surmounted by the City of Edinburgh Coat of Arms.

This elevation varies from the plan designs SM Adam volumes 28/23-24.



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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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