Building a Dialogue: the Architect and the Client, Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2, until 9th May 2015
As the title suggests this exhibition examines the relationship between client (state or private) and architect over several centuries, although as one would expect it concentrates on some of Soane’s commissions including the Dulwich Picture Gallery and Marylebone’s Holy Trinity Church, which is now known as the venue One Marylebone.
While not all relationships were fraught the visitor learns how Sir Christopher Wren’s original plans for the Royal Naval Hospital were vetoed by the King as it would have meant the loss of Inigo Jones’ Queens House and of the problems Soane faced with his plans for Holy Trinity Church from both the Commissioners and the Parish.
The exhibition also looks at how architects could “promote” their ability though published works such as The Thorpe Album from the late 16th century or The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam (1778). The Museum’s director Abraham Thomas says of this enjoyable show: “Architectural drawings have a profound ability to record and articulate the various design discussions that occur within an office or between an architect and a client. I’m delighted that this exhibition not only draws upon gems from the Museum’s collection of over 30,000 architectural drawings, but also reminds us that Sir John Soane’s home was the site of a busy architectural practice, embedded in the heart of the building, where such conversations happened every day. The exhibition also makes a connection between historical and contemporary contexts, by exploring the multi-faceted ways in which architects, especially Soane himself, have always engaged with, and re-defined, the notion of a ‘client’ – showing us how design ideas have continued to express themselves through the drawing process, from Soane’s time through to the present day.”