This superb Edwardian building is the work of Aston Webb. A Londoner, son of an artist and engraver, when he designed the Royal School of Mines in 1901 he was already one of the most successful architects of his generation, having built the Royal United Services Institute next to Inigo Jones Banqueting House and having the V&A under construction. 1901 also saw him win the competition to improve the Mall which involved among other things, building Admiralty Arch and refacing Blores unloved East range of Buckingham Palace with Portland Stone in a much more appropriate Imperial manner. The refacing was completed in under thirteen weeks, the masons working day and night using the new electric lighting. Here at the School of Mines Webb uses a giant order of Ionic pilasters to give the composition a powerful unity, as he also did at Admiralty Arch. But in the centre of it he uses a huge curved and domed niche, technically an exedra, flanked by doubled pilasters to create a massive entrance and alleviate the flatness of the rest of the Prince Consort Road facade. The exedra as a centrepiece has a fine Classical pedigree though not often used. Perhaps Bernini's Trevi Fountain in Rome is the best known example.
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