The Dome, Edinburgh

The Dome, George Street, Edinburgh

The Dome is a building on George Street in the New Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. It currently functions as a bar, restaurant and nightclub, although it was first built as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1847. The building was designed by David Rhind in a Graeco-Roman style. It stands on the site of the Physicians' Hall, the offices of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, which was constructed in the 18th century to designs by James Craig, the planner of the New Town. The Dome is a category A listed building.[1]

Physicians' Hall

The Dome marks the place of the old Physicians' Hall, by architect James Bond. As the winner of the New Town planning competition in 1766, he received little recognition. He did, however, design the Physicians' Hall for the Royal College of Physicians, though, despite his credentials, the building does not stand today.

Aesthetically, the Hall was striking and beautiful to the human eye. "Its foundation stone was laid in 1776. The building, with an 84-foot-long (26 m) frontage, had a portico of four Corinthian columns and gave the College of Physicians a permanent home again after temporary refuge in the Royal Infirmary in Infirmary Street".[2] Unfortunately for Craig, the sense of permanence was not achieved because the Hall did not suit the need of the physicians. "The physicians had money problems and were not entirely happy either with Craig's internal arrangements".[2] Since the Hall was built for the use of the students, it did not achieve its original goal. "The physicians appeared never to have been completely happy with it and sold the site to the Commercial Bank, which ripped down Craig's building to erect a superb banking hall".[2]

Outlook on transformation

Owned by Scotland's Commercial Bank, a new project by architect David Rhind was on the horizon for the now empty lot. Previous to this architectural movement, the Church was the central structure in terms of financial dedication. Now, money was filtered and dedicated to the construction of banks and commercial property. "This undermined the political power of the old society of landed and established religious interests was now followed by a further acceleration of capitalist-led social and economic transformation".[3] This means that to represent Scotland's more socialist outlook, buildings focused on serving the community as a whole, not just an elite or selective audience.

The Scottish capitalist movement was an architectural turning point in Scotland. "The earlier building types of capitalism were refined and elaborated. Banks and insurance companies built ever more grandiose headquarters and branches in the cities, along with offices for lawyers, shipping firms and land agents; the construction of bank chambers from the 1840s (as with David Rhind's work for the Commercial Bank) constituted one of the biggest ever building campaigns in Scottish cities".[3] To further portray the socialistic thinking, the Commercial Bank's style focused a great deal on unity, a fundamental value of the belief. "The whole is sculptured in a very high style of art, the prevailing feeling of the different groups being in harmony with each other, blending into a whole, and so uniting with the details and general effect of the edifice as to combine the tout ensemble into an interesting and delightful unity".[4] In terms of economic outlook, Scotland's views had changed from Socialistic to Capitalistic.

Construction of the bank

David Rhind saw this perspective of capitalism and traced the idea roots all the way back to Greek society. "From the mid- 1830s and early 1840s, while Thomas Hamilton and Playfair had continued to exploit the potential of explicitly Grecian architecture, William Burn, David Bryce (Burn's partner 1841-50) and David Rhind had begun to move towards an astylar, Italian palazzo-like classicism for some commercial buildings and club-houses, and a Graeco-Baroque grandeur for others -- in both cases, combined with a somewhat Greek sharpness of detail".[3] With this mindset, a classical revival became highly evident in Scottish architecture. "By the end of the 1840's, there developed that aspect of neo-Classical architecture, known as Greco-Roman, whose influence was strongest among Scottish banks".[5]

David Rhind embraced these ideas as he started to construct the building which is now called the Dome. "The front of this banking-house, a really magnificent structure, which has been erected in George Street, exhibits a Corinthian hexastyle portico ninety-five feet in width, of great general beauty, and having a bold but not obtrusive projection; the columns of which it is composed, six in number, as the name of its style indicates, are thirty-five feet high, of very graceful proportions, with a happily adapted intercolumniation, and having elegant well-relieved and spiritedly carved capitals".[6] In other words, the building is representative of Doric order and Greek classicism. The windows of are arched and simple, very similar to those designed by Palladio in the Villa Godi in figure three. The front architrave is quite comparable to the Temple of Agrigento.

The Commercial Bank

Not only did the Commercial Bank capture ideology of society but it also captured a sense of beauty. In April 1847, The Scotsman said, "'the rich and massive architecture of the front', and the interior decoration 'in a style which is not less than gorgeous'".[3] It can be drawn that the interior again resorts back to a classical style with columns and a central dome. David Rhind clearly took advantage of light source, by constructing the dome of glass, as well as giving the building a more modern appeal.

Present day

The Commercial Bank of Scotland, through a series of mergers, is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland.[7] However, the walls, windows, floors, and dome of the building remain present today. A building takes a great amount of effort and time to construct, which gives it a high level of importance. Since there is such extensive effort put into erecting buildings, the structures must appropriately fulfill the societal needs. When looking with this mindset, one can better understand the relationship between the structures of the Commercial Bank and the Scottish citizens and how it correlates to Scottish society.

Symbolically, the Commercial Bank represented a capitalist movement, as well as highlighted the enlightened thinking of the Greeks. David Rhind incorporated the use of light by using a glass dome, and made use of space with a large central lobby. Though one of many buildings in a Greek Classical revival, The Dome stands unique on George Street with its stunning pediment and long rich history. The structures, style, art, and rhythm of the Commercial Bank create a three-dimensional photo that captures the most important elements comprising Scottish Society.

See also


  1. "14 George Street, Former Commercial Bank, Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
  2. 1 2 3 Hamish Coghill, 2005
  3. 1 2 3 4 Miles Glendinning, Ranald MacInnes, and Aonghus MacKechnie, 1996
  4. Fine Art's Journal
  5. Elliot, Charles, and George Cleghorn, 1958
  6. Fine Art's Journal, 1847
  7. "Commercial Bank of Scotland Ltd, Edinburgh, 1810-1959". RBS Heritage Online. The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
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Coordinates: 55°57′12″N 3°11′46″W / 55.95336°N 3.19603°W / 55.95336; -3.19603

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