Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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No. 120 Pall Mall
No. 120 Pall Mall (Plate 273c) was built in 1929–31 as a show-room and offices for Crane Limited, a Canadian firm of heating and sanitary engineers, and its British subsidiary, Messrs. Crane-Bennett Limited. The architect was Sir Edwin Lutyens (fn. 1) and the contractors were Messrs. Holloway Bros. (London), Limited. (fn. 2) The site had previously been occupied by two houses, Nos. 120 and 121 Pall Mall, the former having been the premises of the French Gallery.
The builders found the sub-soil so treacherous that although work was begun in the latter part of 1929, both the main demolition and the rebuilding had to be delayed for a year while the foundations of the adjoining structures were secured. (fn. 3) The new building was completed late in 1931. (fn. 4)
The basement, ground and first floors were designed as show-rooms, with a visitors' lounge in the mezzanine at the back. The other floors were to be let separately as offices. Lutyens also designed two model bath-rooms for the displays and furniture for the visitors' lounge. (fn. 5) The maple leaf in the pediment of the façade seems to have been a later addition to the design. (fn. 3)
In August 1932 the firm vacated the premises, which were taken over in 1936 by the present occupants, the Holland America Line (London) Limited. (fn. 6)
The building makes good use of the site, deep but narrow-fronted, with five office floors, all about ten feet high, above a lofty show-room having the main staircase and mezzanine gallery on its east side, and a mezzanine room above its south end. Lutyens's front is no mere clothing of structural steel with Portland stone—it is a masonry construction, with depth as well as height and width, the composition is bold and full of subtle relationships, and the details are exquisitely precise. There are two lofty stages, the lower forming a powerful base, dominated by the cavernous unmoulded arch of the show-room window, asymmetrically placed and having the pedimented doorway and a square mezzanine window on its left, and a range of three deeply recessed windows above. The piers between these windows serve as a pedestal-plinth to the order which dresses the two-storeyed upper stage, dividing it into three bays—wide between narrow. Here Lutyens has used his composite 'Delhi' order, with square shafts at each end and three-quarter columns in the middle, their slender plain shafts standing on tall pedestals and supporting an unbroken entablature. The plain stone face of each bay contains two windows, the lower placed immediately over a recessed pedestal-apron, its die ornamented with a plain disk set in a sunk oblong panel—a typical Lutyens fingerprint. The ornamentation of the capitals is continued as a decorative band across the wall faces. Above the entablature is a simply treated attic, its plain face containing three squat windows, surmounted by a pedestal-parapet with three groups of widely spaced, waisted balusters. Behind this rises a recessed attic, with an accented middle bay, the whole crowned by a triangular pediment in the centre of which is carved a large maple leaf above crossed palm branches. (fn. 7)