Episode 11: Soane Spectacular

Sir John Soane is Rachel’s favourite architect of all time. A bold statement no doubt. But this month Abigail and Rachel visit the recently reopened Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, West London and explore what makes Soane such an inspiration after all these years.

This Month I:

Abigail has been perusing Elle India (online) and read about the amazing contemporary cameos of Amadeo – merging her two great loves of agate and jewellery. They are, in a word, magical. Rock me Amadeo!

Rachel has been reading Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez. It’s an exploration of how society’s ‘default male’ approach to understanding and designing the world has put over 50% of the population’s lives more uncomfortable at best, and in mortal danger at worst.

Good Design / Bad Design:

Rachel is fundamentally perplexed by the counter intuitive dials in her fridge, and currently battling an iceberg. Same goes for the ‘two button’ loo flushes. Is the big one for a lot of water, or is the big one for a little bit of water and therefore you should press it more often???

soane paris

Abigail has just returned from Paris and wonders if it really is as dirty as it’s reputation – or indeed if London is any better. Still…. Dog mess aside it’s one of our favourite design destinations. The answer (as usual) is more trees in cities!

Soane-special:

soane quote

Born to a bricklayer in 1753 Sir John Soane rose to the top of the architectural profession – his life’s work was the Bank of England, but along the way he designed two of his own homes, at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, as well as the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Much of his work has been demolished – the destruction of the Bank’s interiors in the 1920s was particularly criminal, but enough survives for us to be UTTERLY fascinated by.

The thing that Soane did best was play with light and colour in interior spaces. In this way he creates movement through buildings and also humour – admittedly a very dry sense of humour.

This was also a man who knew how to throw a party – when he took possession of Seti the first’s sarcophagus (having it winched into the crypt no less) he threw a three day party to show it off.

The restored Pitzhanger is absolutely glorious – while not as intricate (the spaces are bigger and meant for entertaining) as his town house – the carefully restored plaster work, wallpaper, and his use of glass in the gallery are just stunning. He takes you from the bright light of the main stairwell into the dark yellow haze of a corridor and again into the light of the ballroom – simply breathtaking.

The interpretation in the house is fab – and in particular Rachel became obsessed with the table cloth which gave little vignettes about the people who used to dine there. It really serves to make you feel closer to the people who lived there.

Soane table cloth.jpeg

If you want to know more about how Soane sits in the pantheon of architecture – this talk from Rafael Moneo is an excellent first step beyond Wikipedia.

Next month we will…

Be talking about Water! In your house, garden, cities. Any thoughts on this let us know – we’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Instagram.

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