The Soane Rangers of today
Monday 13 September 1999
MacCormac, Jamieson and Prichard show their Ruskin library, the Wellcome wing at the Science Museum, the Fitzwilliam Chapel at Cambridge and St John's College, Oxford, under a transparent canopy stretched on Gothic styled steel ribs which alludes to the painted canopy in the breakfast room at the adjoining No 12. Richard Meier reveals how the Getty Centre in LA was inspired by Soane's Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Soane's dome, anchored like a parachute in four corners of the breakfast room at No 13, Lincoln's Inn, inspired two Spanish architects to come up with two very different contemporary buildings: Rafael Moneo, architect to the Swedish museum of modern art, translated his dome into one at the Don Benito Cultural centre in Badajoz, and Juan Navarro Baldeweg's Palacio de los Congressos in Salamanca interprets the Soanian sail in a vast luminous auditorium with a suspended concrete dome of 1,500 tons.
Interiors inspired by Soane's own magical breakfast room have appeared in Spain, Sydney, Tokyo and America.
Soane, rather than Christopher Wren, or Robert Adam or Augustus Pugin is the figure from the past whom architects today turn to for ideas.
Piers Gough (CZWG architects) designed the installation of John Soane: Master of Space and Light at the Royal Academy of Arts. "Our work is a counterpoint to the modernist trend of lightness. It is heavy, strong, thick and luscious and, to be honest, not very Soane-like," he says.
Pier's father Peter Gough, a sculptor in flint, says: "Soane is all about space and light and the way in which skylights and fanlights transform the space. I think Piers captured that. Also, his detailing on the exhibition display cases is good. Those grooved corners on the plinths on which the scale models stand couldn't be more Soanian."
Labelled the Bernini of Modernism, if not its Soane, Richard Meier designed the Getty Centre above Los Angeles on the lines of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. "Dulwich is a very small picture gallery by contemporary standards with spaces which are almost domestic in size. It's that intimacy - which also exists in his house at Lincoln's Inn Fields - and a kind of spatial organisation which I think people can't help responding affirmatively to. There are also surprises, wonderful, almost personal interventions which appear once the overall structure has been defined."
John Walsh, director of the Getty Centre, said: "I only wanted picture galleries in which, at any time during the day, one could see all the collection, totally illuminated only with natural light, the way that Soane did it."
In his exploration of every major architectural "ism" this century at his own home in New Canann, Philip Johnson based the guest pavilion on the Breakfast Room. "I copied his breakfast room twice in two different places where I live, and it's the most cuddly, marvellous feeling."
The Breakfast room dome pops up at the Vories Hall, Ochanomisu Square,Tokyo by the Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki, to stress "the strange meeting of East and West in the 20th century".
Robert Venturi and his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown, whose approach to natural light and the enfilade arches at the National Gallery extension in London is positively Soanian, explain. "Why do we love the Dulwich Picture Gallery? Because its Classicisim is both conventional and deviant. It's an architectural oxymoron."
Richard Maccormac of MacCormac, Jamieson and Prichard, one of four invited exhibitors in the Inspired by Soane exhibition at Lincoln's Inn Fields relates his Jubilee Line Extension underground station to Soane's blurring of boundaries. "He pushes the energy of the room into the periphery. There is terrific uncertainty."
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