“Sectional Perspective of the Dome Area & Breakfast Room”, by Frank Copland, 1818. This section conveys the dual nature of Soane’s house as residence and museum. Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Sir John Soane’s Museum is truly a hidden gem in London. Founded by one of the most inventive architects of the 18th and 19th centuries, Sir John Soane (1753-1837), the museum was originally a home, office, architecture academy and space for Soane’s collections. Rebuilding and adding on to the property over a number of years, Soane embarked on an ambitious project: to turn the space into an educational monument to architecture and a museum of architectural models, casts and drawings organized in a rational, if eclectic, manner. Soane also graciously opened his collections and home to students, hoping the examples presented would aid their studies. In 1833, Soane bequeathed his home and its substance to the public and asked that they be preserved and kept open and free after his death. As he intended, his collections continue to inspire. For us, this project is all about the architectural section: letting light into a mass through strategic cuts in the architecture’s floor, walls and roof. The gallery walls open to reveal Soane’s immense collection, and open yet again to connect spaces through carefully considered sight lines. The organization of the museum may seem chaotic, but in fact, Soane designed the juxtapositions carefully and purposefully to affect the visitors’ experience of his collections. We were in awe of the space and its contents.
Since it opened in 2000 in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate Modern in London has consistently broken attendance records with its thought-provoking exhibitions of international modern and contemporary art. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron converted the industrial structure while retaining much of the original character of the building, and also completed an addition to the museum that opened this year to house new gallery, performance, education and administrative spaces. The iconic power station, with its brick construction, imposing central Boiler House Tower chimney, and broad edifice that abuts the River Thames, has welcomed more than 40 million visitors and has presented acclaimed exhibitions by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Rauschenberg and Damien Hirst; the permanent collection is home to an entire room of moody Mark Rothko paintings, and controversial installations have included Doris Salcedo’s subterranean chasm titled “Shibboleth”, a giant crack in the Turbine Hall’s concrete floor into which overzealous patrons (in)famously slipped and fell. The Tate Modern is impressive in its scale, use of materials, and successful conversion of historic architecture into a beacon of modern art and architecture. It beckons us time and time again.