Sir John Soane’s Museum
Watch the video and write down the words you hear that have similar meanings to the words below. For example, the first word in the list is price. You hear the word cost. Write this word down.
- price = cost
- communicate =
- desire =
- era =
- unusual =
- maze =
- enthusiastic =
- unfeeling =
- combined =
- dim =
- visual =
- makes =
Watch the video, complete the gaps on a piece of paper, then check your answers.
An architect is not just someone who can knock you up a nice building for a reasonable cost and get the job done efficiently. An architect is somebody who can express a personal vision of the world through stone and glass. Great architecture is poetry in three dimensions. A building can express longing, nostalgia, pride and sorrow, love and terror.
John Soane was born the son of a humble builder but he became one of the most brilliant architects of the age of the Napoleonic Wars. He bought his house here in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1791 and he worked on it all his life.
This is one of the most conventional rooms, the library and dining room, and yet there is something strange. The dark walls are based on the deep red interiors of ancient Roman houses in Pompeii. As you leave the dining room, the house goes mad. It becomes a museum of the mind. Soane has created a crazy labyrinth of art, architecture and history.
All his life Soane was a passionate collector. His house became a museum, a repository for his collection, and yet the collection became somehow part of the architecture.
Soane is the poet of British architects. He’s a man who who can make light and space and scale into a form of expression, so that everything in his house means something - and not something cold or academic, but something that we feel and intuit as deeply personal to him.
Soane has taken all the different traditions and styles going right back to ancient Greece, even to ancient Egypt, has synthesized them and has orchestrated them in a music of his own, which expresses his own self through the history of the classical tradition, but that clear light, which is what we associate with the classical architecture Soane practised, goes down and down and becomes darker and weaker, until finally you’re peering into a shadowy crypt.
This Egyptian sarcophagus is the treasure of Soane’s collection and it has pride of place at the bottom of his great light-filled courtyard. What Soane really does in this house is to sculpt light. All the coloured filters and skylights and grilles he uses create different optical atmospheres as you walk around, so it’s almost like being inside one of those great golden light-filled paintings by his friend J. M. W. Turner.
What Soane has done is to convey all the ambitions of architecture in his museum house. He creates public grandeur and intimate secrecy. He tells the story of the art of building in one building, but most of all he expresses himself, his darkness and his light.