Cities are always changing. Eight hundred years ago on the banks of the river Thames the magnificent palace of Count Peter of Savoy was the height of luxury, only to be burnt down in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 which started the change in fortunes for the Savoy area as, over successive centuries, it was a prison, hospital, barracks and became popular with impoverished French protestants to live in the 18th century with a new German Lutheran Church built in 1723, before most of this was swept away for the new Waterloo Bridge (1811) and Victoria Embankment (1862). These new developments however signalled a change in fortune with the new Savoy Theatre opening in 1881 for the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte followed by the new Savoy Hotel in 1889, from which Monet would later paint his famous views of the River Thames. A joint Examination Hall for the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons was also completed in 1889 with classrooms, laboratories and a lecture theatre, to be sold thirty years later to the relatively new – but growing – Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the Institution of Engineering and Technology (EIT)).
Remodelling by H Percy Adams and Charles Holden included white marble and bronze decorations to the entrance hall, Cuban mahogany panelling to the lecture theatre and a library along the length of the river frontage on first floor, with Members holding their first Ordinary General Meeting in the new building on 10 November 1910. Adams Holden and Pearson further altered the façade and added an additional storey in the 1950’s.
With the relocation of staff offices elsewhere, the EIT has completed the major refurbishment to Savoy Place designed by Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects to create 21st century facilities for the professional institution and its Members, along with conference and meeting facilities that match the quality of its location.
Areas which were previously offices have been converted into meeting rooms and conference areas to make the most of the river views with the top floor rooms able to open up completely into one large space leading up to a new rooftop terrace overlooking the river. Circulation has been redesigned to improve clarity and new lifts, kitchens and service areas provided. The original 460 seat lecture theatre (now known as the Kelvin Lecture Theatre) has been refurbished to enable a flexible variety of activities to take place and the new prestige 180 seat Turing Lecture Theatre has been inserted into a former light well.
New installations designed and built by MET Studio London reflect on the history and the future of IET and its members, including video walls, a new digital chandelier in the entrance hall which can be connected to live feeds to encourage global debate and discussion, an illuminated wall of 100 engineering and technical ideas that have transformed the world, voted for by IET members, full height installations in the stairwells which will feature noteworthy individuals including T Karl Benz, inventor of the first car powered by an internal combustion engine, and Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
The refurbishment successfully reinforces both the history of the IET and its building and its future role in technological development. Original timber and marble panelling and carvings have been retained, along with portraits in the Kelvin Lecture Theatre, while new facilities have been provided for conferences, meetings, lectures and other events. The members of the IET now have one of the best Members’ Rooms in London with a high quality flexible working and networking environment, including a quiet study/information area and café/bar, all with stunning views of the River Thames.