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Tivoli Corner 1803-1805 (61)

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Tivoli Corner was featured on the reverse of Soane’s Gold Medal presented by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1835. It has continued to be regarded as one of his signature works. Soane himself referred to the corner in his lectures and publications and his contemporaries appreciated it as one of his best works. The Tivoli Corner was the corner of the Bank’s new north-west extension, at the junction of Lothbury Street and the newly realigned Princes Street. Final designs for the attic were made in the summer of 1805, but the corner was not built until 1806 or 1807.

Soane probably began contemplating the corner's design as early as 1800, when the Bank secured permission from Parliament for acquiring land for its new north-west expansion. The Corporation of London also began plans in 1800 for improving the streets around the Bank. In 1802 the City of London's planning scheme positioned the Bank’s north-west corner at a prominent junction of improved avenues (see scheme 3:3). From its earliest stages, Soane envisioned Tivoli Corner as a focal point of the new cityscape.

Designs for the corner began in January 1803, when Soane records working on the 'end forn of Bank' on Saturday and Sunday the 5th and 6th of January. Designs came to a halt in February, however, when negotiations faltered for the new extension’s property acquisitions. As property and facilities manager and rental agent, as well as Parliamentary lobbyist for land acquisition bills (Abramson, 2005, p. 163), Soane was responsible for negotiating with the leaseholders of the properties as well as the owners. Without terms agreed with all 50 separate building plots, construction could not be completed on the new wing, especially at its corner. After three years of negotiations, eight houses were still occupied in May of 1803. As late as January 1805, two houses were still not yet acquired and in the way of building.

Lothbury and Princes Streets meet at an acute angle, as opposed to the other three corners of the Bank. Soane had built curved corners on Lothbury Street in 1797, but the concept of a curving north-west corner (and with that a more straightforward reproduction of the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli) did not materialise until October 1804. Designs from January and February 1803 show a blind triumphal arch at the corner. Rough alterations to some of these drawings show a portico on an inward curving segmental plan; indications of the final design. A new set of designs begins in September 1804, beginning with three variant preliminary designs made while on a weekend holiday in Margate. The corner took on a new form, consisting of a four-columned portico between single columns set at an oblique angle to the main face on each end (an at right-angles to Princes and Lothbury Streets). In October, a second column was added at both ends of the portico. An alternative design shows four columns receded in antis and between the paired columns, forming a continuos portico on a splayed plan. In October, the four columns were set on a convex segmental plan. Soane worked on attic designs until June 1805.

The Tivoli Corner still partly exists today. The attic was demolished in March 1933, during the re-construction of the Bank by Herbert Baker. A pedestrian walkway was cut through the corner, passing behind the curving screen of columns.

Literature: A.T. Bolton, A short account of the evolution of the design of the Tivoli Corner of the Bank of England, designed by Sir John Soane, R.A. 1804-1805, London: Sir John Soane's Museum, 1933; M. Acres, The Bank of England from within, 1931, pp. 397-399; M. Richardson, 'John Soane and the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli', Architectural History, vol. 46, 2003, pp. 129-145; D. Abramson, Building the Bank of England, 2005, pp. 146-156.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011



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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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