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Astragal: Gloom with a view

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Piers Gough always succeeds in making architecture cheerful. Even in leading a small group around the home of that morbid master of gloom, Sir John Soane, last week, he managed to interweave laughs with serious points. Soane is closer to Balthasar Neumann, he suggested, than his younger German contemporary Schinkel, and the way he displays objects is unlike the modern trend in exhibition design, which makes them 'easy to visit'; Soane, he suggested, is simultaneously theatrical and cool, and able to use cheap materials to great effect. This is what Piers is having to do in his design for the Soane show at the Royal Academy, due next year, and currently undergoing the usual budget trims. It should be good.

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