Martins Bank

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Liverpool, Martins Bank

Former Martins Bank (now Barclays), Water Street, of 1927-32, is the masterpiece of Herbert J. Rowse, and among the very best interwar classicalGlossary Term buildings in the country. Won in a competition judged by Charles Reilly, the design perfectly expresses the American classicism promoted through Reilly's Liverpool School of Architecture, where Rowse studied before travelling in Canada and the United States. Portland stoneGlossary Term on a steel frame, ten storeys, the upper ones set back. Ornament is judiciously concentrated at top and bottom, more emphasis being placed on beauty of proportion than on surface decoration. Interior more opulent. The central entrance leads to a majestic top-lit banking hall, with island counter and vaulted arcades on four sides. Travertine walls, floor and columns (the latter hollow, threaded on to the frame), relieved with gilding, bronze and coloured marbles. Every detail, down to the stationery holders, was overseen by Rowse. Circular corner lobbies, those at the SW and NE giving access to lettable offices on the upper floors. These cantileverGlossary Term out over the banking hall, up to the skylight edges. The eighth-floor board room is like the hall of a RenaissanceGlossary Term palace, with large chimneypiece and painted, beamed ceiling. On the roof are penthouses for lift machinery and a flat for the manager, linked by colonnades enclosing a roof garden. Interior and exterior sculpture, illustrating themes of money and the sea, is by Herbert Tyson Smith, assisted by Edmund Thomson and George Capstick. The flat, linear style is influenced by the Paris Exhibition of 1925. The main bronze doors are specially notable.


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