SMIRKE, Robert the Younger
(b. 1781, Wigton, d. 1867, London)

General view

British Museum, London

Smirke's largest and in many ways finest public building is the British Museum (1823-52). Here a massive Ionic peristyle is combined with a central portico to produce an effect of great gravity and power. The building was planned round a quadrangle, with projecting wings at the front (the quadrangle was filled in when the domed Reading Room was built to the designs of Sydney Smirke (1798-1877) in 1854-57). There are several impressive interiors, notably the main staircase, flanked by massive Doric columns, and the King’s Library (1824), in which Greek squareness was tempered with rich decoration, especially in the ceiling, to produce one of the most satisfying public rooms in Britain of the 19th century.

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