Somerset House

Sir William Chambers, Sir Robert Smirke, Sir James Pennethorne
1776-86, 1830-5, 1856

This important site had contained several buildings prior to the building of this important civic and government complex. It was designed to house public offices, including the Navy Board and the three principle learned societies - the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Society, and the Society of Antiquaries.

Strand Street side

Set around a great courtyard, measuring 350 by 310 feet, the building is faced with Portland stone. Today the complex houses the collections of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Gilbert Collection and Hermitage Rooms.

Townhouse structures to the side of the courtyard


River facade

This river facade is more than 800 feet long. Although it is symmetrical, it is punctuated by a central colonnade with a pedimented attic and dome as well as outer sections with colonnades on the piano nobile. See this image, an aerial view of the river side.

Somerset House Great Courtyard

Jeremy Dixon.Edward Jones

This architectural firm is responsible for the large fountain in the central courtyard. Planted in the newly cobblestoned space are 55 jets of water, in a grid pattern. The spouts can be retracted so that the courtyard can be used for public events and even a skating rink in the winter. Fiber optic lights make it possible to highlight the dancing water after dark, which sometimes spouts as high as 6 metres. Even in the daylight the vast fountain is entertaining to watch and the square has become a popular spot. On the river side of Somerset House this firm has also designed amenities for public and civic life. (no images)

Click here to return to index of art historical sites.

Click here to return to index of artists and architects.

Click here to return to chronological index.

Click here to see the home page of Bluffton University.

© 2004 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

Page created by Mary Ann Sullivan