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A right Royal draw-up

A collection of masterwork drawings and models made by celebrated architects on their election to the Royal Academy is now on show, writes James Pallister

Masterworks: Architecture at the Royal Academy of Arts is showing until 13 March in the John Madejski Fine Rooms

Since 1786, 86 architects have submitted a significant drawing to the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) – their Diploma Work – as part of the formal process of becoming a Royal Academician. Until 1939, when they were put into safe storage, these works were on permanent display in the RA Diploma Galleries since the 1870s. Now a selection of works by Soane, Barry and Gandy and contemporary architects such as Grimshaw, Foster and Alsop are showing at the academy.

The presentation of a masterwork has a long tradition, according to curator Neil Bingham, author of the accompanying book. In Bourbon France, artists were only officially admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture upon presentation of their morceau de réception. For acceptance as an Academician, the work needs to be approved by the Assembly Council.

Work wasn’t ‘rejected’, but asked to be resubmitted – Denys Lasdun’s submission, for example (shown overleaf) – especially if it wasn’t deemed to be in the architect’s ‘own hand’ or didn’t meet the jury’s tastes.





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