John Soane, the son of a mason called Swan, started his career by working at the office of the architect George Dance and assistant to Henry Holland. After gaining a silver medal from the Royal Academy for achitectural drawing Soane left for Italy in 1777 as a travelling student, where he remained for 3 years. In 1788 Soane was appointed architect for the Bank of England, succeeding Sir Robert Taylor, rebuilding the whole structure, thus gaining a great reputation for his work. In 1802 Soane was to succeed Dance as the Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy. Soane was later appointed Architect Attached to the Office of Works in 1814, a position he held until retiring in 1832, and was responsible for the buildings of Whitehall and Westminster. Between 1820-26 Soane carried out additions to the House of Lords, House of Commons and the Law Courts at Westminster, which have been destroyed. Of the changes he made to Palace of Westminster, he provided a new royal entrance, staircase and gallery. The royal staircase which rose in three stages was inspired by Bernini's Scala Regia at the Vatican, although the style was influenced by Charles Percier's and Pierre-Francois Fontaine's work at the Louvre and the Tuilleries in Paris, which Soane had visited in 1819. Soane began to collect many paintings, sculptures, drawings and gems which were kept in his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and it was this collection that Soane gave to the nation in 1833, having obtained and Act of Parliment through which his house became a national architecture museum. John Soane was knighted in 1831 and was to later refuse a baronetcy in order to spite his son George.
Sir John Soane is considered one of the most original designers in the history of British achitecture, developing a style of classical rivival imaginatively using Greek and Roman motifs. Soane's style of reducing classical elements of design to their structural essentials and the use of shallow domes, segmental arches and top lighting placed him amongst the most innovative of British architects.