While this story is not short of remarkable details – being rich in Edwardian tropes of mesmerism and exotica, patriotism and fate – perhaps its most remarkable turn is that, despite the burlesque nature of the event, anecdotal reports of the fire form the evidence base of a number of our contemporary building standards. The fire was the subject of a dedicated report by the British Fire Prevention Committee, which took the building to be a model of good practice, on account of the safe egress of the audience. This report was influential in establishing the mandatory use of fire-curtains, despite their tragic consequence in this instance. Our internationally recognised standard of maximum safe egress time is also a derivation of this particular fire. The audience reportedly escaped within the time it took the band to complete its rendition of the national anthem, which lasts around 2.5 minutes. This measure of safe egress time has been taken as a standard within fire-safety engineering ever since, and as such is embedded within building codes. National and international standards for maximum safe egress distance, for instance, are geometrically derived from the duration of Handel’s tune (which itself was plagiarised from a piece by Jean-Baptiste Lully, written to commemorate Louis XIV’s survival of an operation to remove an anal fistula). In Scotland – where ‘travel distance’ is defined by Building Standard 2.9.3 (overleaf) – this linear dimension is set by a complex formula that relates a number of variables - room area, occupancy loading, evacuation profile, and the number and size of exits - the constants in which, though, are the presumed safe escape time (2.5 minutes), and the presumed shoulder-width of the escapee. Scotland has more conservative travel distance requirements than England, because Scots are presumed to have broader shoulder than their southerly neighbours. While regulations that are derived from the 2.5 minute rule might offer an amusingly technocratic memorial to the fallen empires of Europe, there is no technically compelling reason why gross-to-net ratios around the world should be limited in homage to the opening of the Sun King’s rectum. Due to the success of the curtain, fire and smoke never spread to the auditorium, which survived the fire intact. That is, had the conductor been so inclined, he could have struck up for a baroque comédie-ballet. The audience might not have found it funny, but they could have stayed safely in their seats while the stage fire burned itself out. On the basis of this specific example, then, a more logical act of fire-safety regulation would be a requirement that all fire alarms sound to the tune of their respective National Anthem.

Invitation & Escape, The Architecture of Fire Safety Regulation, via Are building regulations the enemy of architecture? | Art and design | guardian.co.uk