David Watkin's book, Sir John Soane: Enlightenment Thought and the Royal Academy Lectures, was warmly reviewed in AJ 10.10.96 - praised among other things for putting Soane's thoughts in a European context and for including some of the drawings made in his office to illustrate the lectures he gave as professor of architecture at the RA. Now Watkin has curated a fascinating show at the Soane Museum with over 30 of these drawings and a sampling of related books and models ( www. soane. org).
'Nothing like these drawings and the vision of world architecture that lay behind them had appeared before, ' claims Watkin. There were 1,500 of them, often substantial in size, and notable not just for their subjects - the role they played in developing Soane's arguments - but their execution.
In the museum's rather claustrophobic gallery, they roam across space and time, spanning Egypt, Greece and Italy as well as points nearer to home: the interior of Westminster Abbey, for instance, which Soane said provoked in him 'sentiments of the most elevated description'.
One could single out many of the inclusions. There's a fine example which conates St Peter's, the Pantheon, the Radcliffe Library and Soane's Rotunda at the Bank of England. An 1819 drawing of the austere Rue des Colonnes in Paris looks remarkably Modern with its almost worm's-eye viewpoint. To indicate the eclecticism of Hadrian's Villa, Soane referred his audience to the disparate buildings of Kew Gardens, two dozen of which are constellated on another splendid sheet (pictured above).
Michelangelo's dome of St Peter's is 140m high - the one that Edwin Lutyens envisaged for Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral would have reached 155m. This hugely ambitious project foundered after the Second World War with only the crypt constructed, but its grandeur can be gauged by the magnificent wooden model - 380 x 360 x 520 cm in size - on show at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery until 22 April following a £500,000 restoration ( www. thewalker. org. uk/ cathedral). Its eventual home will be in 3XN's Museum of Liverpool, to be built on the city's waterfront.