LoginJoin us
Forgot Password
Add to Collection

Sir John Soanes Museum

London, United Kingdom
1 of 2

Sir John Soane's Museum was formerly the home of the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane. It holds many drawings and models of his projects and the collections of paintings, drawings and antiquities that he assembled. The Museum is in the Holborn district of central London, England, on Lincoln's Inn Fields. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Soane demolished and rebuilt three houses in succession on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields. He began with No. 12 (between 1792 and 1794), externally a plain brick house. After becoming Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, Soane purchased No. 13, the house next door, today the Museum, and rebuilt it in two phases in 1808-09 and 1812.

In 1808-09 he constructed his drawing office and "museum" on the site of the former stable block at the back, using primarily top lighting. In 1812 he rebuilt the front part of the site, adding a projecting Portland Stone facade to the basement, ground and first floor levels and the centre bay of the second floor. Originally this formed three open loggias, but Soane glazed the arches during his lifetime. Once he had moved into No. 13, Soane rented out his former home at No. 12 (on his death it was left to the nation along with No. 13, the intention being that the rental income would fund the running of the Museum).

After completing No.13, Soane set about treating the building as an architectural laboratory, continually remodelling the interiors. In 1823, when he was over 70, he purchased a third house, No. 14, which he rebuilt in 1823-24. This project allowed him to construct a picture gallery, linked to No.13, on the former stable block of No. 14. The front main part of this third house was treated as a separate dwelling and let as an investment; it was not internally connected to the other buildings. When he died No. 14 was bequeathed to his family and passed out of the Museum's ownership.

The Soane Museum is now a national centre for the study of architecture. From 1988-2005 a programme of restoration within the Museum was carried out under Peter Thornton and then Margaret Richardson with spaces such as the Drawing Rooms, Picture Room, Study and Dressing Room, Picture Room Recess and others being put back to their original colour schemes and in most cases having their original sequences of objects reinstated; Soane's three courtyards were also restored with his pasticcio (a column of architectural fragments) being reinstated in the Monument Court at the heart of the Museum. In 1997 the Trustees purchased the main house at No. 14 with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The house has now been restored (2006-09) and has enabled the Museum to expand its educational activities, to re-locate its Research Library in that house and to create a Robert Adam Study Centre where Soane's collection of 9,000 Robert Adam drawings is housed in purpose-designed new cabinets by Senior and Carmichael.

The most famous spaces in the house are those at the rear of the Museum - the Dome Area, Colonnade and Museum Corridor. These are mostly toplit and provide some idea in miniature form of the ingenious lighting contrived by Soane for the toplit banking halls at the Bank of England. The ingeniously designed Picture Gallery has walls composed of large 'moveable planes' (like large cupboard doors)that allow it to house three times as many items as a space of this size could normally accommodate (the original hang in this room was reinstated in January 2011). When visiting, it is necessary to request the planes to be opened and wait for a group to gather before this is done.

The more domestic rooms of No. 13 are at the front of the house, many of them highly unusual, but often in subtle ways. The domed ceiling of the Breakfast Room, inset with convex mirrors, has influenced architects from around the world. The Library-Dining Room reflects the influence of Etruscan tombs and perhaps even gothic design in its repertoire of small pendants like those in fan vaulting. It is decorated in a rich 'Pompeian' red. The Study contains a collection of Roman architectural fragments and the two external courtyards, the Monument Court and Monk's Yard contain an array of architectural fragments, Classical in the Monument Court with its central column or 'pasticcio' representing Architecture and Gothic in the Monk's Yard, filled with medieval stonework from the Palace of Westminster.

Go to article
ziggurat, June 7th, 2013
Go to article