Designs for King's College by James Byres

These five drawings for a rebuilding of King's College, Aberdeen, in the manner of a Roman Palace, were undertaken by Byres in 1767. The main influence is Borromini's: his buildings for the Roman University, the Sapienza, and his library for the Oratorians at the Chiesa Nuova.

Byres's plan would have clothed the inner quadrangle at King's with two storey cloisters and would have concealed the crown spire behind a palace front, with a block advancing to the street-line of the High Street. One of the sections through Byres's projected front block indicates a library room looking inward to the courtyard, triple height, with two ranges of galleries, ornamented with a statue of Atlas bearing the world. A large and magnificent room with a dome is allowed for a museum, on the scale of the Tribuna of the Uffizi in Florence.

Byres's associate Colin Morison, a graduate of Marischal College, intended that his substantial collection of 300 Italian paintings 'of all the great Italian masters, from the invention of oil-painting down to the perfection of the art by Raphael' to come to King's College. Had this happened, it would have formed one of the earliest public picture-galleries in Britain, contemporary with the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Morison's collection was seized by the French forces in Rome as enemy property, after his death in 1810, and was dispersed. His and Byres's ambitions for Aberdeen may, however, explain the sumptuous museum room which is at the centre of these plans.

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