Somerset House: London's Largest Living Room
London Festival of Architecture 2008
(Photos © urban75, Saturday 21st June 2008)
Sandwiched between The Strand and the River Thames, this Neoclassical palace stands on the site of the original Somerset House, which was built in 1547-1551 by Edward Seymour, who regaled under the natty titles of Lord Protector to the Tudor King Edward VI and the Duke of Somerset.
Sadly for the Duke, he'd rubbed so many people up the wrong way during the building of his mansion that his opponents had him arrested for treason and he was executed on Tower Hill in January 1552, with ownership of Somerset House being transferred to the Crown.
Over the following decades, the likes of Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren had all added bits to the building, but by 1776 it was in such disrepair that Sir William Chambers - one of the country's leading architects - was commissioned to rebuild the entire structure in the Palladian style.
For the next 200 years, the beautiful Palladian buildings housed the Navy Board, the Royal Academy and Royal Society, and 'publick offices' including The Surveyor General to Births, Marriages, and Deaths.
Refurnished at end of the 20th century, Somerset House now hosts world-renowned permanent collections and special exhibitions of The Courtauld Gallery, with the space offering sa wide variety of public entertainments.
In June 2008, the courtyard at Somerset House was transformed into 'London's Largest Living Room' complete with a full suite of outsize furniture.
The installation was a joint project from Design for London and the London Festival of Architecture. Here's some photos from our visit.
Elaborate nautical stone carvings can be seen on the exterior walls of Somerset House, echoing its naval heritage.
The below surface structure of the south facing building.
"If I could design London I would..." - exhibition of ideas, Somerset House.
Outside cafe overlooking the Thames.
First World war memorial.
Somerset House photos and features:
» Underneath Somerset House, 2010
» Free Time In The Courtyard, 2006
» Somerset House panorama, 2004
» Ice skating, Somerset House
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