Eyecatcher

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The Independent Culture
Here is a gentleman inspecting Sir Robert Taylor's Transfer Office at the Bank of England, as seen through the eye of Thomas Malton the Younger in 1790. This is one of a delightful collection of illustrations to be seen from tomorrow at the RIBA Heinz Gallery, 21 Portman Square, London W1, in an exhibition entitled "Architecture Engraved: 300 years of architectural prints", which runs until 27 July (0171-580 5533 for details). What catches my eye more than Taylor's elaborate classical vaulting and fanciful Corinthian columns is the merry little black dog trying to divert its master's attention from the spectacular top-lit ceiling. Increasingly today, dogs are excluded from buildings as if they were some form of dangerous alien or hobnailed tradesman who, with his coarse manners and rude attire, might frighten the children. Modern air-conditioned office complexes and shopping malls are dog-free zones. Church wardens, even in rural parishes, ban them from services and even from looking (well, sniffing) around medieval pews and Jacobean pulpits.

This hyper-sensitivity to dogs in architectural settings might seem barking to any dog-owner, but it a growing phenomenon as the British develop their new-found intolerance of our best friend. As clients and architects conspire to design buildings that are increasingly squeaky-clean to look at (although their air-conditioned abominations may be breeding and distributing all sorts of nasties), so the dog is forced to stay at home. Dogs did attend church services in the past. Romantic offices allow them bed and board today, where visiting dogs bring out the best in gradgrind office labourers. Clearly, the architects of the Bank of England agreed. Sir Robert Taylor's successor as architect of the great financial institution, Sir John Soane (1757-1837), had a portrait painted of his beloved dog Fanny and built a memorial to her memory which you can still see today at the Soane Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. But don't try taking the dog with you.

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