Somerset House
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Architect William Chambers
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Location London, England   map
Date 1776 to 1786   timeline
Building Type government offices and art shool
 Construction System cut stone masonry
Climate temperate
Context urban riverside
Style Neoclassical
Notes Home of Royal Academy of the Arts. Corinthian orders above arched courtyard apertures, rusticated base.


Photo, exterior overview of the long Thames facade, with tugboat

Photo, principle facade and fountain in main courtyard

Photo, exterior



Plan Drawing

Perspective Drawing
  Contributions appreciated

Discussion Somerset House Commentary

"Somerset House, London, was built to house government offices and fills a huge site between the Strand and River Thames. The Strand facade is a modest nine bays in width, with an order (half-columns) above an arched rusticated basement in the manner of a sixteenth-century Italian palace. Beyond the facade opens a vast court twice its width. The long side and end elevations with their central unpedimented projections call to mind A.J. Gabriel's [Le Petit Trianon], for example, as well as buildings by Vanbrugh; despite their size they are relatively subdued. The dignified river facade, despite nineteenth-century modifications, still closely reflects Chambers's intentions. It is very long, nearly 200 m (600 ft), symmetrical, but broken into several subsidiary sections rather like Versailles. The outer sections have connecting water gates resembling Palladian bridges. The central inset colonnade with its pedimented attic above and dome behind provides a discreet central emphasis."

— Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture. p1050, 1053.


First occupied by students in May 1780. (1)

Waterfront facade 183 m (600 ft) long.

Sources on Somerset House

Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture. John Musgrove, ed. London: The Royal Institute of British Architects and The University of London, Boston: Butterworths, 1987. ISBN 0-408-01587-X. NA200.F63 1987. discussion, p1050, 1053. exterior photo of facade, p1054, plate A. — The classic text of architectural history. Updated 1996 edition available at

Sir Banister Fletcher. Sir Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture. 18th ed., revised by J.C. Palmes. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975. ISBN 684-14207-4. NA200.F63. Described, p1062, facade photo, p1066, fB.

Russell Sturgis. The Architecture Sourcebook. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1984. ISBN 0-442-20831-9. LC 84-7275. NA2840.S78. interior perspective drawing, p321.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about Somerset House


Web Resources
Links on Somerset House

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