Banking on Crowd-Sourcing: Lost Neo-Classical Treasure Gets Brought Back to Life Digitally

by Andrew Rink

Among classic buildings destroyed over the centuries by war, disasters and developers, few are as mourned as the Bank of England circa the 18th century.

The neo-classical masterpiece designed and built over the course of four decades under the direction of Sir John Soane stood in the heart of the City of London until the late 1920s, when a redesign altered it irrevocably. Soane’s work is still missed to this day for its remarkable use of natural lighting and impressive effects of scale.

To fill the void, NVIDIA and HP joined forces this summer in an effort dubbed Project Soane, which brought together some 400 architects from around the world to create a digital model of the original design using building information modeling technology.

We’re now announcing the second part of this initiative — a rendering contest that kicks off at Autodesk University in Las Vegas on Dec. 1.

The result of the competition will be visual recreations of several sections of the architectural masterpiece for the world to enjoy.

Project Soane: Bank of England
Soane’s Bank of England: View of the Tivoli Corner (1807). Image courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Lost Treasure

Soane, a professor at the Royal Academy, was appointed architect and surveyor to the Bank of England in 1788 and set about redesigning the bank in the neoclassical style.

But starting in 1925, the bank made renovations to expand and modernize the structure, demolishing nearly all of Soane’s contribution in the process. Some scholars consider it to be among the most significant architectural losses of modern times in England.

Project Soane: Bank of England Interior
Soane’s Bank of England: View of the Consols Transfer Office as built, drawn by Joseph Michael Gandy with figures added by Antonio van Assen (1799). Image courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Rallying to our call, enthusiasts collaborated over the past months to digitally reconstruct key sections of this neoclassical treasure. With Autodesk A360 serving as a collaboration platform, the crowd-sourced team used Autodesk Revit software to create digital models based on original drawings provided by Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Virtual Restoration

Now we’re inviting architects and visualization specialists to create renderings of the crowd-sourced Revit models from the first phase. It’s an opportunity for them to showcase their design visualization expertise. We’re especially excited to see high-quality photorealistic renderings created with GPU-accelerated rendering engines like NVIDIA Iray.

Participants can try out easy to use rendering tools like NVIDIA Iray for Revit and NVIDIA Iray for 3ds Max plug-ins. These apps simplify and speed up physically based rendering workflows. And Iray can be further accelerated when run on the NVIDIA Quadro VCA, a network-attached visual computing appliance that harnesses the speed of GPUs for massively scalable rendering power.

NVIDIA and HP will award the rendering contest winners some enticing prizes. So if you’re passionate about architectural design visualization, join the mission.