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Walter Emden 1847-1913


Walter Emden was the second son of William S. Emden, who had been lessee of the Olympic Theatre. The young Emden began his working life as a civil engineer, but took up architecture in 1870 with Kelly and Lawes. That same year, while still technically a student, he was given his first commission for the remodelling of the Globe Theatre, and he went on to design Terry’s, the Royal Court in Sloane Square and the Tivoli in the Strand, which became known as a model for music-hall architecture throughout Europe.

In 1889 he began collaborating with C. J. Phipps, with whom he designed the Garrick and the Duke of York’s. He also designed hotels, restaurants and later in his career, cinemas.

Emden’s younger brother Henry, who became a leading scenic artist, collaborated with him in some of his theatre work, and painted the original act drop for his brother’s Trafalgar theatre in 1892.

Emden’s early work revealed his lack of formal training: the Theatres Trust Guide calls him ‘the epitome of charming architectural illiteracy’, describing his famous Tivoli as ‘a glorified fun palace’. The influence of Phipps sobered his work, and his later buildings are more in Phipps’s manner, characterised by the Guide as ‘well-behaved and precise.’

London theatres include:

1887 Terry’s (now demolished)
1888 Royal Court
1889 Garrick (with C. J. Phipps)
1890 Tivoli (now demolished)
1892 Duke of York’s
1892 Palace – conversion to variety theatre
1895 Royalty – alterations (now demolished)


Theatre ground plan by Emden, 1896
Theatre ground plan by Emden, 1896
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